Charles King, an Uber driver in Monroe, Louisiana, says that he hopes the new stimulus package can be enough for him and his family.
Before the pandemic, King said he was earning over $600 a week with the ride-sharing company. This week, he says his earnings went down to $7.
“This is something that we’re just going to see how it plays out before we know it works,” King told USA TODAY.
On Friday, President Donald Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus bill to help millions of Americans stay afloat during the coronavrus pandemic, as many were laid off or are struggling financially.
Under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, included in the stimulus bill, freelancers and gig workers can receive half the average unemployment benefit in their state and an extra $600 per week.
The new assistance program was created to help qualify self-employed workers who couldn’t file for regular unemployment insurance.
“It’s a real problem in this country right now that so many people are making a living in the gig economy,” says workers compensation attorney Geoffrey Schotter. “It’s presupposed (that) everyone (working) receives a W-2, but the reality is we don’t live in that world.”
Even before COVID-19, workers from ride-sharing companies, like Uber and Lyft, were facing constant uncertainty over employee classification.
Working couriers:DoorDash, Postmates, UberEats couriers work through a pandemic
But some gig workers have found relief amid the pandemic. On Friday, New York’s Court of Appeals reinstated a 2015 decision determining that couriers for the on-demand delivery app Postmates should be classified as employees, according to Bloomberg. This would them eligible for unemployment insurance.
According to Arindrajit Dube, labor economist and professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, trying to determine self-employed workers’ incomes within the last months was going to take too much time.
“This gives fast relief to people who otherwise wouldn’t have received any unemployment benefits,” Dube told USA TODAY.
Dube also mentioned that, while the package could benefit some gig workers, some could still see a hit in their pockets.
“This isn’t a perfect solution. For some people, this isn’t going to cover what their typical weekly earning was before this,” Dube says.
Follow Coral Murphy on Twitter @CoralMerfi