The service, intended to help people and to boost the company during the coronavirus pandemic that has eroded its usual ridesharing duties, will pay like the regular Lyft services do, based on distance and the time it takes to complete a job.
Lyft said this service could result in drivers booked to provide services or food for government entities, nonprofit groups, businesses, health care organizations and more. Among the first partners Lyft announced were Dole Packaged Foods and a group working to deliver meals to medical professionals during the pandemic.
The service will first be rolled out in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Orlando, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diego, San Antonio and Seattle, but could later expand to more locations as well, once the company finds more partners.
Lyft has around 120,000 drivers that have signed up for the new program since it was announced on March 20.
Payment will come from the company itself, but also partnering organizations and Mastercard, which is working with Lyft on this initiative.
Lyft is not the first to put forth such an idea; chief rival Uber already offers similar services, and in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that taxi and app-based drivers would be hired to deliver food for those who are immunocompromised or can’t leave their homes during the pandemic for other reasons. De Blasio said they’d be paid $15 per hour and be reimbursed for mileage and tolls.
The coronavirus pandemic has proven especially fraught for gig workers at Lyft, Uber and similar companies — as society shuts down and people aren’t going places, many drivers have found themselves lacking for work.
And because of the nature of many gig economy companies, in which employees are listed as contract workers without benefits, those employees have also found it difficult to file for unemployment.