For workers, the COVID-19 pandemic represented the compounding of crises: a public health emergency and an economic collapse. The economic impact was felt most acutely by workers without a safety net, especially low-earning gig and contract workers.
In the span of weeks, from March through April 2020, over 22 million people lost their jobs due to the pandemic and filed for unemployment. Though eligible for unemployment benefits, gig and contract workers often struggled for months to access and receive benefits as state agencies grappled with antiquated and overwhelmed systems. And of course that financial impact reverberated across the lives of workers and families, as many felt the mounting stress to provide for their loved ones and their communities.
The Workers Lab — thanks to our 25,000+ grassroots donors and supporters who stepped up immediately — was able to act fast and launch The Workers Fund: COVID-19 Rapid Response, our national emergency cash relief program for workers.
We were able to move quickly because when the crisis arrived, we did not start from square one. The Workers Lab had trusted relationships, tested tools, and respected partners in place to be a financial first responder. We launched this emergency fund in coordination with Steady, an app platform designed to help gig and low-earning contract workers.
By the first week of April, before government assistance had kicked in for many, The Workers Fund was already providing relief for gig workers who had seen a 50% drop in income by offering them cash grants of up to $1,000.
Daniel | Austin, TX
This is a very emotional moment for me. I really want to thank you so much for bringing some dignity back to my life. Both me and my mom, we lost our jobs due to COVID-19 and we just have been struggling the last couple of months... This grant will definitely put food back on our plates.
Jalesa | Orlando, FL
I am so grateful that you guys are awarding me $675 towards any type of bills — car notes, rent, food, children, whatever! — to assist me and my family during these times of hard struggles.
Justin | Chicago, IL
It’s been a very rough few months almost with no pay, no income whatsoever. Unemployment denied my insurance... I didn’t know what my family was gonna do, we haven’t eaten in days, power’s been off for a couple of days — you guys saved me. You guys saved our lives literally.
Tyler | Kentucky
This relief fund has helped me and my family so incredibly. We have been falling behind on bills, struggling to make payments because of COVID-19. The generosity that you have shown me and my family is going to get us back on track. We thought we were going to lose the shelter above our heads because we could not pay our rent and we are so bless- ed and so grateful to have received a part of this fund.
We know that full economic recovery from this pandemic will take years. Workers are still in need of our support. The crisis is not over.
The Workers Lab will continue to invest in and champion ideas that build worker power. We continue to strive for a society where workers are the primary drivers of economic, political, and cultural transformation.
Thank you for helping us make that society a reality.
The Workers Lab gives new ideas about increasing worker power a chance to succeed and flourish. We do this by investing flexible dollars in a national network of leaders and innovators to test their new ideas, to learn from them, and to share those learnings with others.