NEW YORK - When Jorge Laporte saw the new coronavirus was rapidly spreading in New York City, he decided to stop driving passengers to places in his taxi cab.
"I was seeing things that were not going to be easy for our health, or for the health of our families,” Laporte said.
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Jorge has worked as a medallion taxi driver for 17 years. The decision to leave his job was to protect the health of him and his wife since she is among the most vulnerable as a cancer survivor.
According to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, cab drivers have suffered first-hand during this pandemic, with 28 drivers dying of COVID-19. Most were immigrants who lived in Queens.
“I feel much pain in hearing this, to hear that so much drivers have died simply to maintain their families,” Laporte told NY1.
It has been a month since he stopped working as a yellow cab driver. Since then, he has applied for unemployment benefits, but has yet to receive any financial assistance from them. He and his wife are living off of their savings, with a debt of $25,000 in credit cards.
“The bills come and sometimes you get desperate, you don’t have any financial income,” said Laporte.
“The TLC is fully committed to helping its Licensees through this unprecedented public health crisis," the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) said in a statement. "In addition to our efforts to provide work opportunities for those who are well and working, we are connecting our Licensees to available resources such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and mental health supports.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that they have registered 11,000 taxi drivers to hire them to distribute food to people who are in need and cannot leave their homes. In an email Jorge received the message states, “Drivers will be paid $15/hour, plus reimbursement for gas mileage and tolls.”
Jorge fears that this will expose more taxi drivers to the virus.
“Any taxi driver who wants to do it can do it. They will have to protect themselves. But I think that, for me, at the this time, it will be a bigger risk due to the situation that my wife and I are facing.”
Jorge has applied for unemployment benefits, but has yet to receive a response on the financial assistance he will receive.