When the pandemic hit, drivers all over the country had a choice they needed to make: keep driving and risk getting infected, or take the unemployment assistance being offered. While we profiled drivers who decided to keep driving, what happened to those who chose to remain at home? Senior RSG Contributor Paula Gibbins interviews one driver, Jared, who recently got back on the road once his unemployment assistance ran out.
The coronavirus has had a tremendous impact on drivers, both rideshare and delivery. For those who took a break from driving, what did they have to come back to once the extra $600 and unemployment benefits ran out? Let’s talk with “Jared” who was in that exact situation.
- Driver Jared took a break from driving due to COVID and received some unemployment assistance
- Once his unemployment assistance ran out, he had to get back to driving
- So far, demand and earnings have both been high – $20/hour on average
Driving Leading Up to the Pandemic
Before COVID, Jared lost his job in a small town in the Midwest due to downsizing. He needed something to compensate for that loss. Enter Uber.
Jared said, “‘Make as much as you want’ and ‘work whenever you want’ sounded more like me and what I’d like to do. Upon realizing that neither of those things were entirely true, and knowing what 3 years’ experience and over 7,000 trips brings you, I will skip ahead to present day and the COVID-19 pandemic era.”
Jared has been driving for Uber for 3 years and has over 7,000 trips under his belt. In a regular business, that would mean something. But for Uber, you’re just another driver.
When the university near where he works sent home its thousands of students at the end of March, Jared knew he needed to make a tough decision.
“My experiences already told me that without this opportunity,” Jared said in reference to the lack of students in the area, “rideshare and delivery in this farming mid-western area does not allow one to solely support the lifestyle I want and have had in the past.”
Unemployment Assistance Programs
“Without unemployment benefits to fall back on, I really didn’t know what to think,” admitted Jared. “My life as I know it was going to be over. What would I do?”
Jared was about 9 months away from early retirement and closer to 6 years to full retirement. So close and yet so far.
Luckily, soon after Jared stopped driving at the end of March, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was announced, and then the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) came about, also programs that were made to help self-employed/small businesses.
Jared explained his earnings, “I drew $863/week until the PUA ran out, at which my PPP loan was deposited and am now receiving $250/week for 12 weeks with no income restraints. Recently, I went back to work at the small-town secluded campus. It was “move in” week, after all.”
The $863 would have been including the extra $600 that everyone on unemployment was collecting until the end of July. Once PUA ran out, it left him with just his PPP loan as income. However, as Jared stated, it did not limit his ability to earn money with driving like unemployment does.
Wondering what’s going on with unemployment assistance? Take a look at our explainer video below: These States Have $900 Of Unemployment Benefits Coming!
Jared was looking forward to a busy time with move in week at the campus. He said, “Thousands of students begin their descent from all over the world, packing into houses, apartments, dorms, fraternities, sororities, about anywhere you can fit a cot or bed or bag. But this year is different, very different. Big 10 sports are already canceled until 2021. The town has mandated everyone must wear a mask anywhere social distancing can’t be done.”
“You can’t fit 135,000 people 6 feet apart in [this town]. It’s just not that big an area. Also, the most frequented and largest bars are closed. 100%. Doors locked. The others are operating at 50% max capacity and restaurants are carry-out and drive thru only. No dine-in allowed.”
“The school decides to go virtual classes and the city mandates no gatherings of over 15 people. Enforceable by law,” explained Jared.
“All the students are not even here yet. But they just keep arriving and nobody is leaving. Now this is truly great,” he said of the situation. “The students are staying on campus no matter what type of learning is implemented. They are here until the school tells them they must leave.”
Earnings for the First Week Back
Despite the unusual circumstances, Jared made out well during move-in week; his first week back on the road since the pandemic.
“I made $1,729 for the week. Uber surged at least 80% of the times I chose to drive,” said Jared. “Food customers tipped about 95% of the deliveries, and unfortunately, Uber riders held normal with 95% not tipping. Even with riders not tipping as often as you’d like, I had one hour at almost $90, 2 hours over $70, 3 hours over $50 and unbelievably 12 hours over the $40 an hour mark.”
Most of his remaining hours of driver earned him over $20 per hour.
Keep in mind, every market is going to be different. Jared has a lot of people packed into a relatively small area who don’t have a lot to do. If your city is more spread out or if your college town isn’t bringing back students, you may find a different situation.
In addition, make sure to take precautions if you do decide to drive! Drivers we interviewed who have chosen to drive during COVID recommend the following:
- Always wear a mask and cancel on riders who won’t wear masks
- Keep some hand sanitizer in the car for you and your passengers
- Wipe down hotspots (door handles, seatbelts, etc.) in your car after each passenger leaves
Have you taken a hiatus from Uber and started back up again recently? How did it work out for you?
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-Paula @ RSG