In September, the New York Black Car Fund (www.nybcf.org) was recognized for its exemplary and innovative benefits program, provided to Black Car drivers in New York, by media outlet, Quartz at Work.

According to the Quartz at Work article, more than one in every ten American workers – 15.5 million people – rely on on-call, temp-agency, contract-firm jobs or independent contracting for their main job in the US, which is more people than work in manufacturing. This estimate came recently from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Contingent Worker Supplement (CWS), which was conducted for the first time in 13 years, and measures how many Americans are engaging in alternative work as their main job.

These workers struggle to access workplace benefits and protections like health insurance, retirement plans, and workers compensation. These workers are 50% more likely to be uninsured than those in traditional work arrangements.

At a time when so many Americans are without benefits and cannot rely on the traditional employer-provided benefit model, the challenge of finding new ways to allocate benefits to workers can be daunting. Benefits should be portable, meaning workers should be able to access them regardless of their work arrangement and be able to take them from job to job. This portability is a vital step in improving stability and economic security for both traditional and independent workers.

That’s where the New York Black Car Fund comes in. Nearly 20 years ago, legislators established a system to provide workers’ compensation to drivers in New York, called the Black Car Fund. A small surcharge on every ride taken in New York has financed workers’ compensation protection for the more than 80,000 independent drivers in New York. Without this arrangement, New York’s drivers would be completely on their own if they were injured on the job.

Building on the success of its workers’ compensation benefit, the Black Car Fund recently announced that it will offer two new benefits. For the first time, drivers will have free access to telemedicine, over the phone or live stream access to a doctor who can provide basic primary care and write prescriptions for basic maladies like the flu. In addition, the fund is offering a vision plan, which provides free access to an eye exam and a free pair of glasses. The delivery of free benefits is already drawing attention from policymakers interested in portable benefits.

According to the Quartz at Work article, “This announcement from the Black Car Fund is a small but important step forward in updating the social contract to better meet the needs of the modern American workforce. We hope that New York’s model serves as an example to other states looking to pilot a 21st century social safety net.”

Source: Quartz at Work

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