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Uber, Lyft driver says business 'not profitable' during COVID-19 pandemic

Life is starting to look more like it was before the COVID-19 pandemic started, but some say that finding a rideshare driver is still difficult.

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Life is starting to look more like it was before the COVID-19 pandemic started, but some say that finding a rideshare driver is still difficult.

Kim Griffith, who has been an Uber and Lyft driver in Massachusetts for the past five years, says she was making up to $2,000 per week at one point. But when the pandemic hit, rides and riders disappeared.

"It's just not profitable to pick up passengers or do deliveries," Griffith said. "Drivers are actually losing money. This pandemic has, basically, financially ruined them."

Griffith also says a declared state of emergency in Massachusetts caused surge pricing to be put on hold, which meant that drivers could not increase their rates during certain times of the day — a devastating blow to the rideshare business.

"I was talking to one driver who is basically living in a car that he's leasing just in hopes of business picking up more," she said.

Uber said they are offering drivers a cash incentive to get more drivers on the road, including a three-month wage increase that they have called a "stimulus payment," but it is not money provided by the federal government and the company says it did not receive any federal stimulus funding.

In Massachusetts, Uber is also working to reinstate surge pricing by lobbying at the State House.

"Surge pricing ensures that riders have access to affordable and reliable transportation and that drivers can earn more on trips during busy times," reads a statement from Uber. "We hope to work towards a solution with the state that allows for a reasonable amount of surge pricing during the continued state of emergency."

Uber said the average wait time for a ride in Boston is now 40% longer than Philadelphia and 150% longer than New York City.

"We're seeing big increases in demand for rides, as vaccines roll out and people get ready to start moving again," a Lyft spokesperson wrote in a statement. "That's great news for drivers, who are busier and earning more than they were even before the pandemic."

But for drivers like Griffith, it may not be worth it to get back behind the wheel of a rideshare vehicle.

"Some drivers are going back to school, and some drivers are just waiting and seeing if they'll raise the rates when the state of emergency is going to end," Griffith said.

Rideshare drivers are also holding out hope for a "bill of rights" to be passed on Beacon Hill, which would include a $20/hour minimum wage, a right to organize and freedom from passenger harassment.

One driver told sister station WCVB that they believe herd immunity against COVID-19 will likely happen long before a rideshare driver bill of rights would be passed.

Both Uber and Lyft do not release detailed ridership data.