Coronavirus pandemic affecting bottom line for Uber, Lyft drivers

Posted at 10:22 PM, Jan 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-02 23:13:15-05

CLEVELAND — Typically this time of year would be busy for rideshare drivers taking people to and from New Years parties and outings, but things have changed because of the pandemic and some are struggling to make ends meet.

Carrie Szakacs started driving for Uber last January in the Youngstown area. She picked it up as a side hustle to supplement income from her full-time job.

“Every night, even in the winter, I was taking people out to bars, to restaurants, to parties,” Szakacs said.

That came to a screeching halt when the state shut down in March.

“Immediately when they did the shutdown, a lot of people were really scared. I know a lot of drivers took off time and I took a little bit of time off, but not too long,” Szakacs said.

But by then, things had already changed and have continued to change over the months.

With the statewide alcohol curfew and a stay at home advisory in effect, the bar scene isn’t what it once was and many are skipping rideshare services altogether because of COVID concerns.

“The amount of tips has greatly decreased, like hardly anyone is tipping,” Szakacs said. “It's become so hard for us drivers to justify the cost because we also really count on those tips to make it worth our time.”

Szakacs said low wages and the fear of contracting COVID-19 has also turned many rideshare drivers in a different direction.

“I feel like a lot of our rideshare drivers have switched over to other platforms, such as food delivery,” Szakacs said.

But that’s not the same for everyone. Single mom Yissian Johnson started driving for Lyft after getting laid off last year.

“It's definitely a need here in Cleveland. I’ve seen an increase in rides,” Johnson said.

Johnson said her rigorous cleaning routine makes she and her riders feel safe.

“I wash and vacuum out almost every day, Lysol down the car and get the seatbelts in between rides,” Johnson said.

Szakacs said she also keeps her car very clean and she knows other drivers do too, so she’s urging the community to support them if they can.

“If you do have the opportunity to maybe go to a small gathering or have the opportunity that you should take an Uber, definitely do it,” Szakacs said.

Szakacs said she has received supplies from Uber like masks and sanitizing wipes and that she and other drivers really take their passengers’ safety seriously and they are taking the proper steps to keep their vehicles clean.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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