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Consumer Cyclicals
Size
Large Cap
Market Cap £73.94bn
Enterprise Value £76.88bn
Revenue £66.20bn
Position in Universe 123rd / 6846

FOCUS-Uber, Lyft use rides to vaccines to get drivers, customers back on the platform

Fri 9th April, 2021 1:00pm
By Tina Bellon
    April 9 (Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc  UBER.N  and Lyft
Inc  LYFT.O  are spending millions of dollars to provide drivers
with access to COVID-19 vaccines and offering tens of millions
of free or discounted rides to vaccination sites for people in
communities that lack access to transportation and healthcare
services. 
    The effort is both public-spirited, and self-interested.
    Ride-hailing demand is ramping up throughout the United
States from pandemic-induced lows, but drivers are still slow to
return to the road, slowing the companies' efforts to rebuild
revenues.
    Lack of transportation is a major hurdle to healthcare
equity and vaccine access, and studies show fewer options for
medical care in low-income and Black communities, which are
frequently poorly served by public transit and have lower car
ownership rates.     
    At Uber, a large team of employees has started calling
thousands of drivers who left the platform over the past year,
asking them what they need to return, Uber U.S. and Canada Head
of Driver Operations Carrol Chang told Reuters.
    The company is trying to address drivers' main concerns -
safety and earnings - through mask mandates, a vaccination
partnership with Walgreen's  WBA.O  and $250 million in pay
guarantees and incentives.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2M01R1
    The Walgreen's partnership has allowed Uber to distribute 
unique codes to more than 240,000 drivers in several states,
including California, Illinois, Virginia and New Jersey,
allowing them to book a vaccination appointment at the pharmacy
chain. 
    Lyft said it is emailing drivers when they become eligible
for vaccination in their states. The company requires masks and
offers pay incentives and promotions in select markets.
    Julia Paige, Uber's director of social impact, who is in
charge of the vaccine rides program, said that in her
conversations with company management "I really tried to show
people that there are times when doing good is good for
business."
    While Uber has not disclosed the costs of the largely
self-funded vaccination programs, analysts estimate the roughly
10 million free and discounted rides the company has promised
will cost $50 million to $100 million. 
    Lyft said its vaccine rides are paid for in partnership with
corporate sponsors, including JPMorgan Chase  JPM.N , Anthem Inc
 ANTM.N  and Target Corp  TGT.N , and private donations.
    Officials in Chicago, New Orleans and Jersey City, New
Jersey, and nonprofit groups working with the companies said the
rides have allowed thousands of people to get vaccinated who
otherwise likely would not have gotten a shot.
    "There's a huge swath of people sitting on the fence about
this vaccine, and only if they have access to it they'll get it
done," said Tamara Mahal, leader of the Chicago health
department's vaccine operation, which has partnered with Uber to
offer free rides to 5,000 people.
    The Uber and Lyft vaccine rides can be booked by cities or
nonprofits on behalf of residents, or by passengers through
access codes. Drivers receive the regular fare for the trips, an
important element for nonprofit United Way, which partnered with
Lyft. 
    "People who are driving for Lyft and Uber are financially
challenged in our society and this creates more work for them,"
said Suzanne McCormick, the organization's president.
    Uber and Lyft say they are not collecting passenger data for
vaccine rides, and the data is protected by health privacy laws.
    Some city and nonprofit partners said the vaccine service
has introduced older people and those in transit deserts to the
potential benefits of ride-hail services.
    Uber and Lyft have both set up fledgling health businesses,
aimed at providing non-emergency medical rides to cities and
healthcare facilities. Many of the vaccination rides are
provided through those health units, and closer ties with
government agencies and healthcare providers could spell more
business opportunities down the road. 
    Lyft said rides to vaccine centers organized through its
healthcare unit were paid for by the clinics and facilities
booking them, but counted toward its vaccine access campaign
goal.
    In New Orleans, Uber is providing a total of 20,000 free or
reduced-price rides to the city's mass vaccination sites. Laura
Mellem, public engagement officer of New Orleans' office of
homeland security and emergency preparedness, said the city was
so happy with the partnership that it was discussing how Uber
could help with evacuations during the yearly hurricane season. 
    City officials said their vaccine collaboration with the
companies does not change their outlook on other issues, such as
driver pay, taxation and congestion, which have frequently
caused rifts between local regulators and Uber and Lyft.
    In Jersey City, across the Hudson River from New York City,
Mayor Steven Fulop said the city is working with Uber to provide
12,000 free round trip rides, mainly to seniors. Jersey City has
in the past enacted regulations Uber opposed, such as caps on
food delivery fees delivery companies can charge restaurants.
    "We've differed with Uber plenty in the past, but it doesn't
mean that we're going to just differ on everything for the sake
of disagreeing. Here, we have an overlapping interest and I'm
happy to work with them," Fulop said.       
    
     

 (Reporting by Tina Bellon in Austin, Texas; Editing by Joe
White and Dan Grebler)
 ((Tina.Bellon@thomsonreuters.com; +1 646 573 5029; Reuters
Messaging: tina.bellon.thomsonreuters@reuters.net; Twitter
@TinaBellon))
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