ROSAMOND, Calif. — Deborah Lewis rose from bed before dawn and signed in to her phone so she could begin delivering fast food, coffee, and groceries to residents in this western patch of the Mojave Desert where test pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier generations ago.

Lewis prayed she would earn $75, just enough to fill the tank of her Kia sedan so she could drive her 8-year-old daughter, Annabelle, 80 miles south to Los Angeles to receive her weekly chemotherapy treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Just a year ago, the same tank of gas would have cost $30 less.

After a full shift as a gig worker, the mother had earned close to what she needed. “It took a lot longer than I thought,” she says.

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