By IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Thousands of New York City cab drivers are trading hails for home calls for the city’s families in need during the coronavirus pandemic.
The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) launched the Driver Food Delivery program three weeks ago to hire anyone with a valid taxi license — whether they drive a yellow cab or Uber — to deliver free meals.
So far, 11,000 drivers have signed up and delivered six million meals through the city’s emergency COVID-19 food distribution program, which provides meals to the elderly, sick and households who can’t afford meals, according to a spokeswoman for the TLC.
Nancy Reynoso, 48, a Bronx cab driver participating in the program, said it’s been helping to keep her family afloat since she’s reduced her passenger pickups in the last month.
“It’s scary times. We don’t know how this is going to end,” she told ABC News. “But you get this satisfaction in your heart that you’re helping during this crisis.”
Drivers who participate are paid $15 an hour and $5 an hour for expenses such as mileage, the TLC said. Drivers are assigned to distribution spots in each of the five boroughs, and a National Guard member puts the emergency food in their trunks.
The driver then heads to the locations, calls the person and leaves the food packages on their doorstep. Eligible food recipients sign up for the program through the city’s website or its 311 hotline. Drivers can sign up through www.nyc.gov/DeliveryTLC.
Thousands of New York City taxi drivers have been struggling financially in recent years as the price of medallions slumped due to competition from for hire vehicles. Drivers who took out loans as high as six figures to purchase the medallions, which were allegedly inflated, have been working to avoid default.
Reynoso said she used to drive seven days a week for the food delivery program but has cut back to six days. She said she typically delivers to six households at a time, but she has seen the number of drivers at distribution centers increase recently.
“I see lots and lots of more people because more people have lost their jobs,” she said.
Reynoso said she is working the delivery program six days a week, but it is still preferable to picking up hails during an uncertain time.
“There are no passengers out there and the ones that are out there … you don’t know if you can protect yourself from the virus,” she said.
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