Britain's Indian-origin finance minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday announced another set of unprecedented economic measures as part of a series of rescue packages for those hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and offered a direct cash grant for those who are classified as self-employed workers.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer had come under pressure to do more to address the workers who are not on the Pay As You Go (PAYE) as payroll company employees after he had announced a package to cover 80 per cent of the wages of PAYE workers.
Sunak said the steps he had taken so far were "already making a difference" but it was right to go further "in the economic fight against the coronavirus".
To ensure parity of the offer made to wage earners last week, Sunak said that under the new Self Employed Income Support Scheme, self-employed workers will be paid 80 per cent of profits, up to 2,500 pounds a month, who find themselves out of pocket as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
You have not been forgotten," he said to this category of workers, as he addressed Downing Street's daily briefing on the pandemic.
The package for the self-employed I've outlined today is one of the most generous in the world that has been announced so far. It targets support to those who need help most, offering the self-employed the same level of support as those in work, he said.
Cleaners, plumbers, electricians, musicians, hairdressers and many other self-employed people who are eligible for the new scheme will be able to apply directly to HMRC for the taxable grant, using a simple online form, with the cash being paid directly into people's bank account.
The money will be paid in a single lump sum for the three months from March till May but will not begin to arrive until the start of June at the earliest.
The analysis for the eligibility for this will be based on income tax returns over the past few years, with the tax department HMRC also contacting qualifying individuals directly to fill up the requisite forms. The scheme will initially run for three months and kept under review like all other COVID-19 related economic packages.
Sunak said his new scheme will be open to anyone with average profits of 50,000 pounds or less but restricted to those who make the majority of their income from self-employment.
And, to avoid fraud, it will only be open to people who are already self-employed and have a tax return from 2019, which would mean that 95 per cent of the self-employed will be covered.
The latest set of measures came as the total number of people in the UK to die with COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, reached 475.
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