Financial aid for an estimated 3.8 million self-employed is opening for applications – with promises of payments within six working days.
The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) was first announced in March amid a clamour from business groups for targeted help for the likes of plumbers, electricians, musicians, many freelancers and hairdressers – unable to access the Job Retention Scheme (JRS).
It was slated to open next month but HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which is administering the aid, was able to complete its advance work ahead of schedule.
The Treasury said that from 8am this morning, self-employed individuals or members of partnerships whose business had been adversely affected by coronavirus would be able to apply for the grants – worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits.
Payments, it was explained, would cover three months of lost income and be paid in a single instalment, capped at £7,500, within six working days of the claim being agreed.
Those identified as potentially qualifying for the scheme had already been notified by HMRC, the Treasury said.
It said those individuals will have been told on which day they should submit their application, as officials bid to ensure the system is not overwhelmed by high volumes.
An online ‘checker‘, using a person’s unique tax reference number, is available so claimants can verify their application date.
The process got underway less than a day after the Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed an extension of the separate JRS, or furlough scheme, to October.
It was revealed that it is currently supporting 7.5 million workers’ salaries at a monthly cost of £8bn.
The Office for Budget Responsibility had already put a £100bn+ estimate on the bill for government COVID-19 support schemes before the extension was announced.
Commenting on the start of the SEISS, Mr Sunak said: “The SEISS it part of a comprehensive package of support for self-employed people, including Bounce Back loans, income tax deferrals, rental support, increased levels of Universal Credit, mortgage holidays and the various business support schemes the government has introduced to protect businesses during this time.”
A range of business groups welcomed the move as a lifeline for the self-employed.
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “I would encourage all those who think they are eligible to use the online checker if they’ve not done so yet, and to apply on the date allocated.
“We are particularly pleased to see the scheme opening earlier than scheduled, with a simple fast-track application and a promise for speedy payment.”
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