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NYC is hiring out-of-work rideshare drivers to perform essential services

With New York City and the wider state currently in lockdown due to the coronavirus (officially called COVID-19), there isn’t much call for ridesharing services just now.

In these extraordinary times, the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) is looking at ways of assisting gig workers currently in dire need of work, while at the same time helping the community to get through the lockdown, which could last up to 12 weeks.

TLC’s big idea is meal delivery, which, with restaurant dining banned and people told to stay home, is expected to see a rise in demand as more people eat in instead of going out.

In an email sent to licensees on Monday, March 23, the commission said it was looking for drivers with a TLC license to sign up for work delivering meals to those stuck at home, with the work set to prioritize the Big Apple’s senior citizens. Other types of deliveries may be added later.

The request goes out not only to taxi drivers, but also to ridesharing drivers that work for the likes of Uber and Lyft, who also need a TLC license to work in New York City, though Uber drivers can more easily shift to Uber Eats if there’s enough demand.

“The world is changing around us and many of you are without work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the TLC wrote in an email to licensees today. “You are a top priority for the TLC and we recognize that you are among the hardest hit by this public health crisis. As we look at all possible ways to help you and as we assess needs citywide, we ask for your assistance and participation in the City’s response.”

The TLC said that at the start, the need for drivers will be small, but demand is expected to increase as more people begin requesting meal delivery. Drivers will be paid $15 an hour — plus reimbursement for gas mileage and any tolls — a wage that is slightly down on the $17.22 an hour that New York City’s ridesharing drivers receive after expenses are taken out. The commission added that drivers will be selected on a first-come-first-served basis.

Interested drivers can sign up at the website included in the email sent out to TLC licensees on Monday. The commission said it will contact drivers who sign up as positions become available.

The initiative is a great example of how a community can utilize its resources to help those in need during what are challenging times for so many people. Ridesharing company Lyft recently made a similar kind of move last week, announcing that it would expand its service to include the delivery of food and medical supplies to people in areas that are under lockdown orders.

Cities and states across the U.S. have ordered lockdowns as a way to keep people apart as part of measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. The drastic action is designed to ease the pressure on health services by lowering the infection rate and reducing the chances of a sudden and unmanageable spike occurring.

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