Self-employed workers will be able to apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits to help them cope with the financial impact of coronavirus, under plans announced this evening by the Chancellor.
Rishi Sunak said that the money – up to a maximum of £2,500 a month – will be paid in a single lump sum.
Sunak (pictured) told the self-employed: “You have not been forgotten.”
A trade body that represents self-employeed and freelance workers welcomed the move as “generous”.
But others raised concerns that the money will not begin to arrive until the start of June at the earliest.
The move follows the Chancellor’s announcement last week that there would be wage subsidies of 80% for salaried employees.
Critics said that the Chancellor’s initial announcement should have included measures for the self-employed.
But Treasury officials today pointed out that there is an added level of complexity around the issue of self-employment.
They also said that today’s financial pledge – which means that at least half of an applicant’s income needs to have come from self-employment as registered on the 2018-19 tax return – gives self-employed individuals extra time to get their accounts in order.
Tax returns for 2018-19 for the self-employed should have been filed with HMRC by the end of January.
But today the Chancellor said that anyone who missed the filing deadline has four weeks from now to get it done and still qualify for the 80% grant.
Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said, though, that he was worried the money would come “too late for millions”.
He said: “There is a real risk that without support until June the self-employed will feel they have to keep working, putting their own and others’ health at risk.”
However, Torsten Bell of the Resolution Foundation think tank said the extensive packaged stood in “stark contrast” to the “much less generous” support being given to employees who are losing their jobs or seeing their hours cut as a result of the crisis.
Today the number of people in the UK who have died with COVID-19 increased by more than 100 in a day for the first time.
The total now stands at 578.