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Uber has paid out $19 million in aid to drivers, but it's not enough

Commentary: That sounds like a big number, but it's not enough to help the company's 1.3 million North American drivers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Uber is giving money to some of its drivers as ridership decreases, but most are getting nothing.
James Martin/CNET
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Times are tough for ride-hailing companies, which means things are likely twice as tough for their drivers who depend on the income from driving. Uber, a company notorious for fighting tooth and nail to keep its drivers from becoming classified as employees, announced on Thursday that it spent $19 million on coronavirus relief for drivers around the world -- half of which went to workers in the US and Canada. This may sound good, but it's barely a drop in the bucket for a company that saw over $14 billion in revenue in 2019.

This $19 million in financial assistance works out to approximately $650 for every driver of the 12,350 that qualified in the US. True, that's not nothing, but for perspective, Uber alone boasts 1.3 million drivers in the US. To complicate things further, Uber tailored payments to those 12,350 drivers by not only the area in which they live, but also on their prior earnings. Even with that, many drivers have taken to various forums to criticize the company for making that money difficult to get.

And yet, the bad news continues. Many drivers have also stated that they've been unable to receive unemployment benefits during the coronavirus crisis because of their "independent contractor" status with Uber. To its credit, Uber did lobby President Trump to have its drivers included in the coronavirus unemployment package, which they were, though clearly some problems persist.

So, where does this leave Uber's nonemployees? Screwed, mostly, with the likelihood that things will get even worse as the economy spirals further down. Uber representatives didn't immediately respond to Roadshow's request for comment.