For the first time ever, Uber drivers and other gig workers would qualify for unemployment insurance as part of the Senate's $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill
- The Senate's $2 trillion coronavirus economic bailout bill includes help for gig economy workers, like Uber and Lyft drivers, who have seen their livelihoods dissolve during the crises.
- For the first time, these workers will qualify for unemployment insurance.
- They will also qualify for the additional four months of extra payments that this bill provides to everyone who collects unemployment.
- It isn't clear exactly how much money per month drivers, contract workers, and freelancers could get, but they should qualify for a weekly payment equivalent to if they were laid-off full-time employee.
- The maximum weekly amount varies by state, but the extra unemployment insurance will add up to a maximum of $600 more per week.
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The email Business Insider received from an Uber driver was heartbreaking. St. Patrick's day was normally a hugely busy day for her. But this year, with the bars in her state shuttered, events banned, and a quiet airport, no one was out.
"I sat for nine hours at the airport and only managed three passengers," she told Business Insider. "I am quite distressed about how I will pay my basic bills including car payment, car insurance, as my entire livelihood relies upon my having a vehicle."
She wasn't sick or in quarantine, so she didn't qualify for the company's sick pay policy. She was technically classified as a contractor so she didn't qualify for her state's unemployment benefits, either.
But now there's hope for her and the thousands of other US rideshare drivers, gig-economy workers, and freelancers who have seen their livelihoods crumble during the coronavirus pandemic.
A provision in the Senate's coronavirus stimulus bill, under a section called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, makes contractors, freelancers, and other self-employed workers finally eligible for unemployment insurance.
It isn't wholly clear yet how much money per week gig workers would qualify for, but the bill, which passed the Senate late Wednesday, says that the amount should be equivalent what they would have gotten from their state unemployment programs if they were a full-time employee who qualified for regular unemployment insurance.
Federal law says that unemployment payments should be the same weekly pay as they would earn from their employer, capped by a maximum amount set by the state. The max amount varies from state to state. For instance, Florida's maximum is $275 per week; California's is $450 per week.
But the coronavirus stimulus bill also provides for four months of additional unemployment insurance, up to an additional $600 per week, for everyone who qualifies for unemployment, including gig workers.
The extended unemployment benefits in this bill attempts to protect workers "whether they work for small, medium or large businesses, along with the self-employed and workers in the gig economy," Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a press release.
The bill must now pass in the House of Representative before it reaches President Trump's desk to become law.
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