Gig workers are experiencing enormous fear and stress around COVID-19 and what it means for our health, well-being, and finances.

Gig workers provide crucial services every day — transporting people safely, delivering meals, shopping for groceries and medicines, and more. During the COVID-19 outbreak, these services have become even more indispensable.

What is COVID-19/Coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is caused by Coronavirus. Those infected typically show symptoms of fever, dry cough, and difficulty breathing. COVID-19 is easily spread between individuals and can live on some surfaces for up to three days. Older adults, people with weakened immune systems, and those with chronic health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are particularly at risk.

Tips for rideshare drivers

The most important thing everyone can do right now to slow the spread of coronavirus is to practice “physical distancing,” which means maintaining a safe distance between ourselves and others, and staying home as much as possible. We hope that rideshare drivers will be able to stay home to care of themselves and their families, and to slow the spread of the virus. However, we know that for many rideshare drivers, staying home from work is simply not an option.

If you need to continue working, we offer the following tips to help you stay safe on the job:

  • Lysol and Clorox brand cleaning products are generally good for disinfecting surfaces. Consult this list of cleaning products that could help slow the spread of coronavirus.
  • Use good handwashing techniques whenever possible throughout your work day.
  • If using antibacterial hand sanitizer, make sure the product is at least 60% alcohol.
  • As is always the case, make sure to take adequate safety precautions when using cleaning chemicals. Ensure that there is adequate ventilation when you use any surface cleaners, and never mix cleaning products together or use one product on top of another on the same surface. Check out this flier from the CDC and OSHA about cleaning chemicals and your health.
  • Avoid spraying cleaning chemicals into the air or spraying to surfaces. It is preferable to spray into a wash cloth/wipe and then wipe the intended surface.
  • While driving, make sure that there is fresh air circulating in your vehicle by opening your windows or adjusting your A/C settings.
  • Change your clothes upon return from work. Clothes that you are wearing out in public should be washed before wearing again.
  • You may place a sign on your windows informing passengers that rides may be refused if passengers are showing any cold- and/or flu-like symptoms. The sign should also advise people to call 911 if they are sick and need transportation to a clinic or hospital.

Tips for food delivery workers and shoppers

The most important thing everyone can do right now to slow the spread of coronavirus is to practice “physical distancing,” which means maintaining a safe distance between ourselves and others, and staying home as much as possible. We hope that delivery drivers and shoppers will be able to stay home to care of themselves and their families, and to slow the spread of the virus. However, we know that for many delivery workers, staying home from work is simply not an option.

If you need to continue working, we offer the following tips to help you stay safe on the job:

  • Many grocery stores have disinfecting wipes at entrances. When shopping, use disinfecting wipes to wipe down shopping cart handles or shopping basket handles.
  • When interacting with store staff, try to maintain social distancing and keep 6 ft away from anyone.
  • Wash and/or disinfect your hands after you exchange cash, interact with the cashier, and/or when you leave the store.
  • Have a bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer and sanitize your hands after each delivery.
  • If antibacterial hand sanitizer is unavailable, you may use a bottle of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). These types of alcohol are liquid, so you may want to first soak a napkin or paper towel to avoid spilling.
  • When picking up at restaurants, wash your hands in restaurant restrooms with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If waiting at a restaurant, try to maintain social distancing by keeping at least 6 ft away from other people.
  • When dropping off food, text customers to share that you would like to drop food off at the door in order to limit contact.
  • Change your clothes upon return from work. Clothes that you are wearing out in public should be washed before wearing again.

Tips for Consumers

While many places in California are starting to see shelter-in-place orders, so far, companies like Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and Instacart have not been told to suspend operations. Gig workers have become frontline responders during the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike other workers who are being exposed to huge risks - such as health care workers - gig workers like drivers and food delivery workers have no protections. Gig workers are not being provided with safety equipment or cleaning supplies and they have no safety net like paid sick time. While cities and counties are rolling out emergency paid sick time funds, gig workers have so far not been included. This means that gig workers will be working to live right now, to make sure their children eat and that they don’t lose their housing. They will be giving people rides to the hospital and from the airport, delivering groceries and food to people who are or could be sick.

Here is what you can do as a consumer:

  • Tip as much as you’re able (cash preferred, but exchange it safely). Gig workers receive only a small portion of the money you pay when using ridehail or food delivery apps. Tips counteract the low pay and workers rely on them to make ends meet. Some orders will be late or incomplete. This will rarely be the worker’s fault.
  • Select “contact-free delivery.” Please choose contact-free delivery to avoid interaction and/or spread of virus. Help keep workers safe.
  • For delivery: be honest about receiving your order. Gig workers lose their jobs if consumers falsely report them not delivering an order. Don’t do this.
  • For rideshare: always give a 5 star rating. If you have feedback for your driver, give it to them directly. Using the rating system frequently results in drivers being deactivated (aka. immediately fired).
  • Be prompt. Drivers and delivery workers do not get paid for waiting time. All time spent waiting for customers to get in the car or answer the door is unpaid and keeps them from completing their next ride or delivery.
  • Do not get into a rideshare if you are sick or experiencing symptoms. If you think you might be sick and need transportation, call 911.
  • Sign our petition calling on California policymakers to protect gig economy workers during the coronavirus pandemic. By signing, you help to ensure workers have access to benefits like paid sick leave, disability, family leave and unemployment insurance.

Accessing Medical Care

  • If you are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms such as fever, dry cough, and/or shortness of breath, call 911 immediately and tell them your symptoms.
  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigrantion Services has announced that the Public Charge rule will not count any COVID-19 related testing, prevention, and treatment services when non-citizens are applying to adjust their status. For more information visit the USCIS website.
  • If you are looking to apply for healthcare coverage, visit Covered California’s website to see whether you qualify for either Medi-Cal (free) or a health insurance plan through Covered California (financial assistance is available for low and moderate income applicants).
  • If you are looking for a clinic to go to, community health centers (sometimes called Federally Qualified Health Centers or FQHCs) are available throughout California that serve all income levels and that provide a wide range of medical, dental, behavioral, and mental health services. Simply Google “Community Health Center [your city or zip]” to find your nearest health center.

Community Resource Lists

The COVID-19 pandemic is devastating for gig economy workers. We know that workers are already suffering, and that workers will struggle to support themselves and their families in the foreseeable future.

In California, Governor Newsom has issued an executive order allowing local authorities to freeze evictions for renters and homeowners. Here is a resource guide that includes information on what action cities and counties in California have taken, how to contact your landlord if you won’t be able to pay rent, and other resources for tenants. If you have more questions, you should contact your city and county directly to find out what protections they have put in place.

In California, PG&E has halted service disconnections for non-payment for both residential and commercial customers until further notice. The utility will also offer flexible payment plans "to customers who indicate either an impact or hardship as a result of COVID-19."

Expensify.org is matching SNAP (CalFresh) recipients payments on food for a limited time. Use this link to submit reimbursement for your groceries.

GiftCardBank.org is making gift cards available to those facing financial hardship.

There are many companies - including credit card companies, loan lenders, phone companies, and others that are offering flexibility on payments. You should call the companies you owe bills to and ask them what your options are for paying less or changing your payment date due to financial hardship during coronavirus.

Below are links to lists of resources that are available. In these lists you will find links to utility relief, food banks and mental health support:

Applying for Benefits

The first best step you can take is to begin filing for unemployment insurance. Here is a guide on how to begin this process.

Gig Workers Rising ran a recent training on unemployment. Here is a recording of the training, and here are the slides from the session.

While we cannot promise that your application will be approved, we understand it to be the first best resource at this time. If your application is denied, you have the option to appeal. This process takes time and will not provide immediate financial relief, though if your application is approved you will get access to unemployment insurance wages.

Here is the link to begin filing your unemployment application.

Here are videos about the process:

Here are legal resources you can contact for more support:

Here is a factsheet with more information on the difference between state Unemployment Insurance and PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance).

These are other benefits you may be eligible for:

Hardship Funds

Many cities and organizations are beginning to launch hardship funds where workers can apply for financial assistance. This list will be updated as more funds become available:

Take Action

Gig Workers Rising has sent a letter to California policymakers demanding they fully enforce AB5 and ensure that gig workers have access to crucial benefits during the coronavirus outbreak. Sign on here and share with your network!