Postmates joins the coronavirus relief effort with fund to cover workers' medical expenses

The company will also waive fees for new merchants in affected areas.

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Postmates is setting up a relief fund to help gig workers cover coronavirus-related medical expenses. The company announced on Tuesday that couriers in nearly two dozen states will be able to credit Postmates for doctor appointments and medical bills, even if they don't end up being diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus. Postmates also says it plans to help out merchants whose businesses have been affected by the outbreak by waiving the fees for new sign-ups.

How workers can get the credit — The Postmates Fleet Relief Fund, as it's called, is available to anyone in the Postmates "fleet" in the following states: Wash., Ore., Calif., Nev., Utah, Colo., Ariz., Texas, Neb., Wis., Ill., Ind., Fla., Ga., Tenn., N.C., D.C., Penn., N.Y., Maine, Mass., and N.J. To qualify, you only need to have made one delivery in any of the above states in the last two weeks.

The credit from the emergency relief fund will be deposited in Postmates' Starship-powered health savings vehicle, so if you work with Postmates but haven't signed up for its health account, now might be a good time to do so. You can do that here, in the health section. Similarly, prospective merchants can sign up for the Small Business Relief Pilot to access "on-demand delivery at no additional cost."

A bit of forced-hand? — The announcement comes after lawmakers called on leaders in the gig industry to take action and support their workers as the coronavirus outbreak grows exponentially across the U.S. Couriers have frequent person-to-person contact as they make deliveries, and, as Postmates notes, may be among the half of Americans that can't afford unexpected medical expenses in the hundreds of dollars.

Senator Mark Warner sent out a slew of letters to these companies last week, including the CEOs of Postmates, Instacart, DoorDash, Grubhub, Lyft, and Uber. This very well may be an answer to that — but, whatever the motive, it's good the company isn't leaving workers high and dry. Instacart similarly announced today that it would pay part-time and full-time workers for up to 14 days of missed work if they are diagnosed with COVID-19.