What does the coronavirus relief bill mean for rideshare drivers?

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The coronavirus nightmare has been especially hard on rideshare and delivery drivers. Rides are waaaaaaaay down, and even if you’ve defaulted to alternative means, such as food delivery, business is nowhere near what it was before this health crisis started.

The gig driving industry is not the only sector of our economy that’s suffering, but we’re certainly feeling a lot of financial pain. Most of us probably expected to fall between the cracks because we’re independent contractors, rather than employees. But, to our great relief (and shock), that didn’t happen this time. A miracle has apparently occurred in the halls of government, and now independent contractors are getting a BIG  break.

Congress has come up with a bipartisan bill that, once fully ratified and signed by the President, will be put into law. As of this writing, the legislation has been blessed by the Senate and awaits final approval from the House of Representatives. Once it becomes law, it extends unemployment benefits to part-time workers—and yes, that includes rideshare and delivery drivers!

We know you’re champing at the bit to have the information you need to get these benefits, so we’ll cover it quickly and easily for you.

What Exactly Is the CARES Act?

The bill in question is known as CARES, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities Act. In Section 2102 of the act, there are provisions that make it possible for rideshare and delivery drivers who have lost business due to the coronavirus crisis to collect unemployment compensation.

You can read the full CARES Act here.

Do Rideshare and Delivery Drivers Qualify to Receive Benefits from the CARES Act?

Drivers will certainly recognize themselves as workers who are defined in the act as “those not traditionally eligible for Unemployment Compensation, (such as the self-employed, independent contractors, and individuals who were scheduled to begin work but are now unable)…” With this bill, which specifically relates to the coronavirus-related crisis in the United States, rideshare and delivery drivers will qualify for unemployment compensation.

So gig workers are now eligible for their respective state’s unemployment benefits AND the extra $600/week bonus that is also part of the legislation.

What Benefits Will Rideshare and Delivery Drivers Get? For How Long Will We Receive Them?

For a number of reasons, benefits won’t be the same for everyone. They vary from state to state, and the amount you qualify for will depend on how much you regularly earn. Most likely, you’ll have to show your earnings statements from the company that runs your driving platform. Specific stipulations have not been fully announced as of this writing, and may vary from one state to another.

As far as what we know is being offered, the federal provisions in the legislation state: 

“These individuals would be provided broad categories of eligibility such that nearly any individual whose employment is adversely impacted by COVID-19 (including individuals who quit their job), other than those able to telework or receiving paid leave, would be eligible for up to 39 weeks of benefits, fully funded by the federal government. These benefits will cover weeks of unemployment from January 27, 2020, to December 31, 2020, that are directly attributable to COVID-19.” 

How Do I Apply?

Before you start stretching your hands to warm up your fingers, and fire up your device so you can fill out the online application, take a few moments to keep reading … 

First, you’ll have to wait for the bill to be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by the President. Once that happens, it will become law. Then it will be time to apply for benefits.

You’ll file your application with your state’s unemployment agency. This website is a useful source with a pulldown search menu so you can check your own state’s unemployment policies.

Once the CARES Act has been signed into law, individual states should be prepared to receive and process applications for unemployment compensation from gig workers, including rideshare and delivery drivers

Don’t be surprised if you experience some disruptions in service, because of an overwhelming demand for unemployment compensation. Your state’s website will undoubtedly be under strain. Try applying during off-hours, when traffic volume may be lower.

What If I’m Still Working?

Even if you’ve continued to work during the coronavirus crisis, your income is probably less than it usually is. You’ll have to indicate your income on your application, and check with your state about how this affects your compensation.

What Happens When It’s Safe to Go Back to the Normal Work Schedule?

When you learn more about the regulations in your individual state, you’ll see that unemployment compensation will be extended to you only as long as you’re not making more money than the maximum allowed by your state.

You will have to decide for yourself when you’re ready to go back to work, especially if you have a health condition that would make you highly susceptible to the virus and its potential effects. It may also depend on how much your area is affected by COVID-19 as the pandemic drags on.

The reality is, however, that any unemployment you receive will probably not be as bountiful as your regular earnings. So once you’re certain that the danger has passed, you’ll probably want to go back to your regular gig.

Will Rideshare and Delivery Drivers Get the $1,200 Stimulus Payment Everybody’s Talking About?

Yes–as long as certain conditions are met. There’s nothing about being a rideshare driver that would qualify or disqualify you for the cash payments being offered by the federal government. The cash payment is being awarded to the entire American population, as long as …

  • You have a Social Security number (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number does not qualify)
  • Your adjusted gross income is $75,000 or less ($150,000 for married couples)
  • You filed a federal income tax form in 2019 or 2018

As of this writing, the stimulus check will be $1,200 for each adult in the household, $2,400 for each couple (in the case of joint filing), and $500 for each child in the household. 

If you filed and received an IRS refund electronically in the past few years, your stimulus payment will be directly deposited in that same account. If this account has changed, you’ll want to report the change to the IRS. In all other cases, a check will be issued to you and sent via the U.S. Postal Service.

Has the Tax Deadline Been Pushed Back?

Yes. The normal tax filing deadline date is April 15, but this year it has been pushed back three months to July 15, 2020. 

As a driver (and independent contractor) you’ll undoubtedly owe taxes when you file for 2019. So, the three-month extension might seem like a relief to you—but don’t waste that time. Instead, use it to plan and save for your tax obligations.

Note that this extension officially applies to federal taxes only. Even though it is likely that states will also extend their deadlines, you’ll want to check your state’s treasury office to understand exactly when those taxes are due. This website can help you find information for your state.

Other Benefits

The CARES Act includes a few other benefits that will be important for some rideshare drivers:

  • All federal student loan payments will be suspended through Sept. 30;
  • Foreclosures on federally backed mortgages are blocked for at least 60 days (if the homeowner stipulates that their finances have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak);
  • Eviction filings at properties connected to the federal government are temporarily banned.

What Should Drivers Do Now?

Having the protection of unemployment compensation is a big comfort, especially at a time like this. The individual stimulus payment is pretty sweet too. It’s a nice surprise that, despite all the negative press about being independent contractors, we rideshare drivers can share in the emergency measures that are being taken—and in the process, we can rest easy about being able to pay for our essential needs.

At Gridwise, we’re always looking out for drivers, and hoping to make your lives easier. Let us know how this new legislation pans out for you, and make sure you download our app so you can continue to reap the benefits Gridwise has to offer.

Above all … be careful and be safe.

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