Uber launches effort to help drivers find other work during coronavirus crisis

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Demand for ride-hailing in cities is down severely due to the coronavirus pandemic, and as such, drivers are struggling to find work. Uber is rolling out a new feature for drivers that is designed to help them find work during this crisis — even if that work is for a different company.

Uber drivers received an email on Monday announcing a new feature in the driver app called the Work Hub designed to help drivers earn money with the company’s other ventures. Drivers can use the Hub to receive orders through Uber Eats; haul freight with the company’s trucking business, Uber Freight; pick up a shift with Uber’s temporary worker program, Uber Works; or respond to an opening from over a dozen other companies that are looking to hire.

Like most shared transportation services, Uber has seen a precipitous drop in ridership as a result of the pandemic. The company’s gross bookings in Seattle, a city hit hard by COVID-19, is down by 60 to 70 percent, and Uber is assuming similar declines in other big cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. The virus has cut Uber’s overall business by as much as 50 percent, according to The Information.

The company is providing financial assistance for drivers who have contracted COVID-19 or who have had their accounts suspended or been told to quarantine by public health officials — though some drivers have run into problems applying for aid from the ride-hailing company. New York City is offering to hire out-of-work Uber and Lyft drivers, and it’s even promising to reimburse them for their driving expenses. Nonetheless, many drivers have seen their earnings dry up and are seeking unemployment insurance through the recently approved federal stimulus package.

The Work Hub is designed to help drivers find new opportunities while mostly keeping them working within Uber’s ecosystem. The company says it’s seen a spike in Uber Eats orders from independent restaurants since mid-March, especially in cities like Seattle and San Francisco. Likewise, Uber Freight is looking for drivers with commercial driver’s licenses to help with freight hauling. The company, which says it has identified 240,000 regular Uber drivers with CDLs, will expedite interested drivers’ onboarding and connect them to carriers through the Hub.

But Uber doesn’t have enough work to cover every drive looking to earn, so it is partnering with dozens of outside companies to help fill the gaps. Through its Uber Works program, the company is working with staffing companies in Chicago, Dallas, and Miami to connect drivers with temporary work in grocery, food production, and supply chain businesses that are staffing up. This includes gigs with Kroger’s meal kit and food delivery company Home Chef, based out of Chicago.

Lastly, the Work Hub will feature job openings with “nearly 15 companies” that are hiring right now, Uber says. These include 7-Eleven, Albertsons, Dollar Tree, FedEx, Hertz, Land O’Lakes, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walgreens, among others.

The Work Hub will be updated with new opportunities and job openings in real time. It will only be available to drivers in the US initially, though for those in the UK, Uber is partnering with online retailer Ocado to inform drivers of food delivery opportunities.

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