New York state is falling short on delivering unemployment payments to hundreds of app-based for-hire drivers, one of the city’s leading taxi worker groups claimed.
In documents filed in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday, the New York Taxi Worker Alliance said at least 497 of its members had yet to receive unemployment payments the state claims to have fulfilled in December.
The group accused the state of dragging its feet on delivering payments owed to drivers after a judge ruled earlier this year that drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft are eligible for COVID-19 jobless benefits.
“The reality is drivers should have been paid the right amount months ago when they first filed for unemployment,” said Bhairavi Desai, the group’s director.
“Self-employed” workers, as for-hire drivers were initially classified, receive significantly less from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program than full-time employees.
State officials previously told the court 4,520 outstanding claims would be paid out by the end of the week of Dec. 14.
But the state has still yet to provide many workers with the retroactive payments they are owed, according to court documents — to the tune of $8,000 in some cases.
The court filing said the problem is most significant “when DOL fails to increase claimants’ benefit rates for prior weeks, while nonetheless increasing their benefit rate for all later weeks.”
“I tried to contact a lot of times, but no one answered the phone. One or two hours I wait on the line, but nobody answers me. Today I called, automatic hang-up,” said out-of-work driver Helal Uddin, 37, who is owed almost $4,000 in back-payments.
“I’m not driving because I don’t have money to fix my car, [pay] the TLC, a lot of things,” Uddin said.
“A lot of my friends are going to work, but in 12 hours of work not making like $80. People don’t have money to use taxis or Uber.”
A Department of Labor rep declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.