Mar 25, 2020 - Economy & Business

Coronavirus rescue bill extends unemployment benefits to gig economy

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As part of the bipartisan deal Senate leaders and the White House struck early Wednesday, unemployment benefits will be extended to groups including gig economy workers, per a statement from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Why it matters: This is an unprecedented expansion of benefits to gig economy workers, who have been classified as independent contractors instead of employees by ride-hailing and food delivery companies, among others.

Flashback: On Monday, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent a letter to President Trump, asking government to include gig economy workers in the stimulus bill.

  • On Friday, Khosrowshahi spoke with Schumer, and had reached out to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (though it's unclear if they spoke).

Details: Per Schumer's letter to Democratic senators, unemployment benefits would extend to four months (instead of the three originally discussed).

  • Workers would get normal benefits from their state, plus an additional $600 per week from the federal package.
  • This applies to employees, those who are self-employed, and gig economy workers.

Yes, but: It's not clear yet exactly how the math of the benefits will be applied to gig workers, as the exact details of the bill have not been released yet. As with traditional employees, the payout will likely vary for these workers based on various factors.

What's next: The exact language of the bill once released should show whether other gig economy requests, namely Airbnb's that its short-term rental hosts receive tax credits and loans, made the cut.

Go deeper: The gig economy's coronavirus test

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What's in the coronavirus bill for Silicon Valley

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There are a few provisions for Silicon Valley in the massive $2 trillion package to cushion the coronavirus' economic impact that Congress is on the brink of passing.

Why it matters: Some startups are facing layoffs and shutdowns, and millions of gig economy workers and Airbnb hosts are being strained by the sudden shift in consumer behavior.

Scoop: Uber CEO asks Trump to include drivers in economic stimulus

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Uber is asking the U.S. government to include independent contractors in its economic stimulus plans, according to a letter being sent Monday morning by CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to President Trump. The company is not asking for a bailout or loans.

Why it matters: Many of the proposals floated for a relief bill that Congress is assembling have included new protections and benefits for employees, but that category excludes millions of "gig economy" drivers and delivery people.

Podcast: Coronavirus hits the gig economy

Gig economy companies like Uber are struggling to respond to the coronavirus — not only in terms of safety, but also how their decisions could impact the legal battle over whether drivers should be considered employees.

Go deeper: Virus spread emphasizes precariousness of gig economy work