$2.50 an hour and exposure to riders who may have the virus: Uber drivers say their income has collapsed and help has been sparse. Here's how bad it is.


Uber and Lyft driver Adama Fofana sprays disinfectant in his car in New York City, New York, U.S., March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Joe Penney/File Photo

  • Rideshare drivers for Uber and Lyft say their income has collapsed amid coronavirus, and support from the rideshare companies has been sparse.
  • Business Insider surveyed over 1,000 rideshare drivers and gig workers. Drivers who are still working said their weekly earnings have dropped by anywhere from 50% to 80% in the past month. 
  • Many have stopped driving altogether due to safety concerns. Others are pivoting to delivery work, which they say has remained more profitable amid the quarantine.
  • Uber and Lyft have promised to give drivers disinfectant supplies, and Uber promised paid sick leave, but drivers say those benefits are unreliable and difficult to access.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Driving for Uber is Eddie Kobayashi's full-time job — the 66-year-old Honolulu resident regularly works 10 hours a day on the app.

A month ago, he could net $200 per day from Uber. By last week, his income had plunged to just $25 per day spread across 10 hours. The money has become so negligible that Kobayashi finally decided to stop driving altogether.

"I currently earn $2.50 per hour, on top of the exposure to riders who possibly carry the virus," Kobayashi told Business Insider. "I cannot for my own sanity justify to myself why I would jeopardize the health and well being of other riders and of course my own family's."

Lockdowns amid the coronavirus outbreak have been financially devastating for rideshare drivers across the country. More than 1,000 rideshare and delivery workers responded to a Business Insider survey this week — drivers quoted in this article, whose employment Business Insider has verified, described drops in income that mirror Kobayashi's.

Both Uber and Lyft, which have near-identical business models and pricing, have rolled out measures to support drivers through the coronavirus outbreak — both companies say they provide free disinfectant supplies to drivers, and Uber has vowed to cover two weeks of paid sick leave for drivers. But drivers told Business Insider that the free cleaning supplies are often hard to find, and that Uber's sick pay is unreliable.

A Lyft spokesperson told Business Insider that cleaning supplies are delivered in bulk shipments, and drivers will be notified when they arrive.

An Uber spokesperson told Business Insider that the company is "committed to working with drivers and delivery people around the world to help support them," but declined to answer specific questions about cleaning supplies or sick payments. Uber SVP Andrew Macdonald tweeted Thursday that shipments of disinfectants are "now starting to make their way to drivers."

In the immediate term, drivers are poised to get some relief from the newly-passed CARES Act, which extends unemployment benefits to gig workers for the first time ever. Some drivers also told Business Insider they're pivoting to delivery work, which they say has remained profitable amid social distancing measures. 

Here's exactly how much of a financial toll coronavirus is taking on rideshare work, according to drivers.

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Drivers have watched their incomes evaporate as travel came to a screeching halt due to coronavirus prevention measures.

Daniel Hang, a full-time Uber driver in Edmonds, WA, said he made roughly $1,000 per week in February. That dropped to $700 per week for the first two weeks in March.

The state of Washington ramped up preventative measures in the second half of March, and Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 23.

In the second two weeks of March, Hang averaged a mere $16 per week. He has since stopped driving altogether. He added that, while he read online that Uber would provide free cleaning supplies to drivers, he never received any.


Some drivers have started ramping up their work for delivery apps, which they say provide more reliable income.

Adam Smith, a driver in Fairfield, CT, used to work for Uber and Lyft part-time, bringing in about $200 per six hour shift.

He has now started working for delivery apps like Grubhub, Doordash, and Postmates, too — between all the apps, he says he makes roughly $100 in six hours.

"The pay for DoorDash is pretty solid and you can 'cherry-pick' the best deliveries," he said. "But we're even more disposable to all of these companies right now."


Some people recently laid off from previous jobs due to coronavirus have turned to gig work as a backup, only to find that the income was nearly nonexistent.

Chicago resident Michael Sanchez was laid off from his full-time job at Dunkin Donuts in the first week of March as his branch scaled down its operations due to coronavirus.

That week, Sanchez started working as a Lyft driver to make backup income. In the three weeks that followed, he watched his average income as a driver sink from over $100 per day to roughly $40 per day.

"I'm doing at most eight rides per day if I'm lucky," Sanchez said. "It goes up and down, but it's mostly been going down."


Uber promised to provide up to two weeks of sick pay for drivers, but many have said the company suspended their account and refused to answer questions when they requested pay.

Latina Young, an Uber driver in Los Angeles, has been driving for over 5 years and has built up a 4.92-star rating in that time.

Earlier this month, Young had a rider with a persistent cough who joked that "everyone has coronavirus." Within a week, Young herself started experiencing symptoms, and visited a doctor who advised her to self-isolate for two weeks.

In messages back and forth with Uber reviewed by Business Insider, Young attached the letter from her doctor and requested that Uber provide two weeks of sick pay the company had publicly promised. Instead, she received a generic message informing her that her account had been suspended for 14 days without further explanation.

"I have been driving during this crisis suffering with long hours and making less than $500 a week," Young said. "No financial assistance, no explanation."

Young's experience fits a broader pattern described by Uber drivers who have been unable to get sick pay.


For drivers with preexisting health conditions, there's no option but to forego driving entirely. Even then, they say financial support from Uber is unreliable.

Nate, an Uber driver in Las Vegas, told Business Insider that he stopped driving in early March because he has an autoimmune disorder and wants to avoid catching COVID-19 at all costs.

But when he asked Uber to provide two weeks of sick pay, providing a note from his doctor recommending social distancing due to his condition, the company told him that the pay doesn't cover conditions outside of a COVID-19 diagnosis.

"I really thought that due to my disease and the higher risk I have of getting sick, as well as with an official document from my doctor, they would easily listen and help," Nate said. "The whole thing was shady and misleading."


Drivers now see unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act as a glimmer of hope, but it's still unclear how states will provide the benefits.

"The saving grace in this is that the government has just extended unemployment benefits to rideshare drivers and gig workers," Nate said.

While the $2 trillion stimulus bill does provide benefits to gig workers for the first time, it's not clear exactly how drivers will access those benefits.

Many states have been rejecting applications filed by gig workers, according to a CNBC report, and the exact amounts drivers will be paid is set to be determined on a state level.

"None of us wants to collect unemployment. We'd rather be working, but we're all currently making about 50% less [than before coronavirus] right now, some even less," Smith said. "And we're on the front lines."



Tags: Lyft, Uber, Washington, Los Angeles, Trends, Chicago, Fairfield, Las Vegas, Smith, Young, Cnbc, Business Insider, Adam Smith, Honolulu, Sánchez, Jay Inslee, Dunkin Donuts, Nate, Michael Sanchez, Kobayashi, Andrew MacDonald, Edmonds WA, Grubhub DoorDash, Eddie Kobayashi, Daniel Hang, Latina Young an Uber

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