The US government has now been shut down for more than a month.
That’s left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without a source of income, many of whom have turned to driving for Uber in order to make ends meet.
The ride-hailing company’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi acknowledged the newfound recruiting stream in an interview from Davos, Switzerland where the world’s elite have gathered this week at the World Economic Forum.
“We love it when new driver partners join the platform, but this is most definitely not how we want new driver partners to join the platform,” Khosrowshahi told CNBC from the ski resort village. “We haven’t quantified [how many new drivers have joined], but it’s definitely happening in D.C., and it’s happening to the most needy. We’re hoping that this ends.”
Working on the Uber platform, be it giving rides or delivering food, is a common practice among people between jobs, or those who simply want to increase their income, but perhaps never before has it involved government employees, many of whom have lofty credentials and degrees.
Uber is especially popular given its flexibility. Tiauna Guerra, an Internal Revenue Service employee in Ogden, Utah, told the Associated Press that she was trying to get a second job but that employers didn’t want to hire her because of the uncertainty over when she would resume her government job.
“One of the benefits of Uber is that for people who are displaced temporarily — if they lose their job, if something happens and they need some earnings opportunities — Uber is there,” Khosrowshahi continued. “And then when they don’t need Uber, they can kind of move on,” he said.
And while the extra income from Uber may help, it may be tough for federal workers-turned-drivers to fully match their pre-shutdown income. What’s more, the Uber gig comes without the benefits of a government job, too. Driver pay averages $10.87 per hour after fees, car expenses, taxes and other expenditures, the economic policy institute found last year.
But the shutdown has also impacted drivers who were already working for Uber, as the demand for rides dried up amid the shutdown.
Nate Murrell, a ride-hail driver in Washington, DC, told ABC7 News this week that government workers were driving for Uber to make ends meet.
“With the government shutdown, you have more people working for the government doing Uber,” Murrell said. “And for the full-time Uber drivers, that is really affecting us too, and our money.”