At a time when For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) drivers can use all the help they can get, the New York Black Car Fund (BCF) has expanded the benefits package it provides to its covered drivers, who are now eligible for free dental exams and cleanings, deep discounts on prescriptions, urgent care, diagnostic imaging, and updated vision care. These new benefits are, of course, in addition to their workers’ compensation insurance and the suite of benefits they were already receiving – like free telemedicine, mental health, and wellness courses.
The benefits package DOES NOT come out of a driver’s pay. Instead, it’s covered by the 3% surcharge customers pay on every ride. A full list of the benefits enjoyed by FHV drivers who participate in the BCF can be read here. The new benefits are administered by the Workers Benefit Fund and Aon in coordination with MetLife, General Vision Services, Galaxy Network, and CVS Caremark. Existing benefits are administered by the Independent Drivers Guild in coordination with MeMD.
If you haven’t already, I strongly urge all eligible drivers to sign up for their benefits IMMEDIATELY by clicking here.
“The Black Car Fund continues to lead the nation in providing benefits to independent workers at no cost to them – benefits that are even more critical now during the pandemic,” Ira Goldstein, Executive Director of the BCF, told amNY. “New York’s drivers are essential to our economy and our recovery, and so we must take care of them during this crisis and beyond. Drivers deserve access to benefits at no cost to them to make sure they can work and remain healthy, without fear that lack of coverage will lead to long periods of unpaid time away from work or preventable health conditions.”
In September, the state legislature passed a bill to raise the customer surcharge by half a percentage point, enabling the BCF to add these new benefits without affecting driver incomes. The BCF has about 125,000 members – including those belonging to other organizations, like the Independent Drivers Guild – which represents over 65,000 in New York City alone. The BCF has approximately 365 Member Bases throughout New York State.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate FHV drivers in NYC, so it was encouraging to see the BCF had the foresight to add benefits that will invariably reduce expenses for their covered drivers.
“Our industry faces new challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we must do all we can to ensure for-hire drivers have access to resources that keep them safe and healthy,” said Berj Haroutunian, Executive Chairman of the BCF and President of Vital Transportation. “The Black Car Fund is proud that it can be the first in the nation to provide this level of benefits to independent workers for free.”
Before I sign off, I wanted to draw attention to another important driver-related issue. Five FHV drivers were recently charged for Workers’ Compensation fraud, and that number is expected to rise. I know times are tough and people are struggling, but these are serious charges and that money is meant to benefit their fellow drivers. It pays for the benefits outlined above. The drivers were charged by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, and are facing serious penalties, which could include criminal charges. The BCF – which is a non-profit organization – is encouraging any drivers who illegally claimed Workers’ Compensation to “come clean” before they get in more serious trouble. Penalties will be reduced for those that admit guilt in advance. Please read more on page 9.
As we struggle to endure a devastating pandemic, I wish all of you good health, safe driving, and hopefully better times ahead in the remaining months of winter.