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Arizona workers left to fend for themselves as companies draft policies amid pandemic

Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 08:01:28-04

PHOENIX — There's no precedent for responding to a global pandemic in Arizona, so business owners are creating policies on how they plan to respond to the growing crisis.

"It's very upsetting," said Michelle. She's a Valley mom who's struggling to pay bills and support her 16-year-old son while being forced to quarantine after being tested for COVID-19 on March 15.

Michelle has driven for Uber for more than four years.

The ride-share giant posted this message on their website on March 16th: "We will provide you with financial assistance for up to 14 days if you actively drive or deliver with Uber and get diagnosed with COVID-19 or are personally placed in quarantine by a public health authority due to their risk of spreading COVID-19."

After being tested for the coronavirus, Michelle says she went through the proper channels to report and submit all documentation to Uber.

She was told the company would review her submission and get back to her, but weeks later, hasn't gotten any answers.

It's a big reason why she says some drivers aren't reporting concerns to Uber.

"I personally know drivers who are out there right now that are either sick or showing symptoms that are driving," said Michelle. "They still need to continue to make a living.”

It's a tricky situation for contracted or freelance workers like Michelle, though, and part of the reason why Uber says not everyone qualifies for compensation.

Uber spokesperson Navideh Forghani tells ABC15 drivers need to meet specific criteria in order to qualify for the voluntary assistance package:

1. You are diagnosed with COVID-19;
2. You are placed in an individual quarantine by a public health authority;
3. You are personally asked by a public health authority or licensed medical provider to self-isolate due to your risk of spreading COVID-19 or;
4. Your account is restricted by Uber as a result of information provided by a public health authority that you have been diagnosed or have been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

While Michelle has documentation to prove she was asked to quarantine, without specific language listed in these four criteria, she won't qualify for financial assistance.

As a contract employee, she also does not have the option to earn paid sick time.

Still, she worries the restrictions are causing a bigger problem.

"What about all the drivers out there right now that don't have the ability or the insurance to get tested but who are showing symptoms, who are infecting other people?"