With many facing hardships like lack of income due to COVID-19 restrictions, contracted employees delivering for entities like goPuff and Amazon are getting benefits once reserved for company staff.
“To help ease the financial impact that you may have, you may receive earnings for up to three days to allow you to see or consult with your doctor, should that be necessary,” Bill McNeely, regional acquisition lead for goPuff, said via email. “Driver partners or employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed under quarantine or otherwise directed by a medical professional to stay away from our facility will be provided with up to 14 days of financial assistance.”
Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) signed into law March 18, 2020, certain employers are required to provide compensation for issues concerning COVID-19.
“FFCRA helps the United States combat the workplace effects of COVID-19 by reimbursing American private employers that have fewer than 500 employees with tax credits for the cost of providing employees with paid leave taken for specified reasons related to COVID-19,” the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) stated on its website in the Wage and Hour Division tab. “The law enables employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.”
According to the DOL, paid sick leave covers up to 80 hours of pay, and the paid expanded family and medical leave covers up to 10 weeks when caring for a dependent impacted by the virus.
The Amazon Relief Fund was created with $25 million donated by Amazon itself to primarily assist contracted employees who do not usually qualify under conventional benefit programs.
“Please note that initially the Amazon Relief Fund is focused on supporting Amazon Flex Delivery Partners, Delivery Service Partner Delivery Associates, Temporary Associates employed by eligible staffing agencies and drivers of eligible line haul partners under financial distress due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or quarantine,” Amazon stated on its website.
A big difference between the approach being taken by Amazon versus goPuff is the classification of the money issued. Amazon is requiring employees to apply for a grant, which isn’t considered taxable income instead of a diagnosis qualifying its workers for taxable income assistance as with goPuff.
“Once the application is complete with all supporting documentation and has gone through the review process, you will receive an email letting you know if your application is approved or not approved,” as stated by documentation on the fund website. “Approximately 2-3 business days after your award notification email, you will receive another email from Emergency Assistance Foundation, Inc. (EAF) confirming the grant award.”
Marychriz Tanglao, applicant support for the Amazon EAF, said this compensation will continue as long as funding is available and it is not limited to just those affected by COVID-19.
In a statement on its website, the DOL also gave an explanation about how long this compensation was required to last.
“The obligation to provide FFCRA leave applies from the law’s effective date of April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020,” the DOL stated. “The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, extended employer tax credits for paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave voluntarily provided to employees until March 31, 2021. However, this Act did not extend an eligible employee’s entitlement to FFCRA leave beyond December 31, 2020.”
Companies like goPuff have been implementing safety measures in order to help minimize the possibility of its workforce being exposed to the virus and therefore needing compensation.
“In an effort to promote safe distancing, we developed a new tech feature that sends an SMS notification to Driver Partners when they are assigned orders by the dispatcher,” the goPuff website stated. “This means driver partners can wait in their vehicle while the order is being prepared and spend less time inside our facilities. We are also conducting regular temperature checks at our sites to ensure no employee or driver partner is working with a fever.”
Another consideration in place is how a contracted employee is considered safe to return to work. Even though there is no federal policy requiring release to work documentation from a medical professional, Dan Bohl, a goPuff driver onboarding lead, made mention of the possibility in an email.
“We will be able to reactivate your [employee] account once we have documentation from a medical professional that you are clear to return to work, or after a 14-day quarantine period if your symptoms have improved,” Bohl said.
As COVID-19 continues to change how job benefits are structured, those without traditional paid leave are still able to receive some assistance from companies not limited by federal mandates.