Rishi Sunak will finally unveil a coronavirus bailout for millions of stricken self-employed workers today – with signs they could get cash payments of up to £1,700 a month.
A week after announcing a massive rescue package for employees, the Chancellor is set to go further to stop those who work for themselves and in the ‘gig’ economy being plunged into poverty by the government’s ‘social distancing’ lockdown.
Boris Johnson said yesterday that the new proposals will offer ‘parity’ with the eye-watering measures already brought forward to protect other parts of the workforce.
There is speculation that around two million workers could benefit, potentially getting 80 per cent of the net income they declared on previous tax returns, up to a limit of £1,700 a month.
Unlike the bailout for employees, which is being channelled through businesses in grants, the government money would go directly to individuals.
The help is also expected to be means-tested, with those earning over £50,000 not covered to avoid the system being exploited.
In other developments on another fast-moving day of crisis:
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak will finally today unveil a coronavirus bailout for millions of stricken self-employed workers.
- One of the government’s top advisers said the UK’s epidemic will get worse before it gets better but could peak by Easter.
- Dyson has been handed an order of 10,000 ventilators from the Government – as long as the machines pass early tests.
- Retailer Boots begged people not to turn up demanding tests because it has yet to receive any.
- Royal aides tried to trace anyone Prince Charles has met in the last fortnight after he tested positive for the disease.
- The latest coronavirus figures for the UK showed 9,529 positive tests and a death toll of 465.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured at a Downing Street press conference last week) will finally unveil a coronavirus bailout for millions of stricken self-employed workers today
Boris Johnson said yesterday that the new proposals will offer ‘parity’ with the eye-watering measures already brought forward to protect other parts of the workforce
Rishi’s rescue: What has the Chancellor already annoounced?
The government’s bailout for the economy has been announced in stages, starting with the Budget on March 11.
The measures so far include:
- The government will cover 80 per cent of wages for companies to keep workers on.
- It will pay up to £2,500 a month – equivalent to the UK average wage of £30,000 a year.
- VAT bills worth £30billion of VAT bills for the next quarter will be deferred.
- A £7billion boost to welfare to ‘strengthen the safety net’ will be made.
- A £1billion boost to housing benefit to help renters;
- A £30billion fiscal stimulus in the Budget, including £12billion directly for the fight against coronavirus, with more money for NHS;
Government-backed loan guarantees worth £330billion – equivalent to 15 per cent of GDP. The Treasury will increase this with ‘as much capacity as required’
A £20billion package for business including a 12-month rate holiday for all firms in retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, and cash grants of up to £25,000 for smaller companies;
A three-month mortgage holiday for homeowners;
A three-month ban on evictions of renters, and mortgage holiday extended to buy-to-let;
The Bank of England has cut rates twice to a record low of 0.1 per cent. Its quantitative easing scheme – effectively printing money to stimulate the economy – has been expanded to more than £600billio
The government has been facing a furious clamour to bring forward a rescue package for the self-employed, with warnings that it is already too late for many who have been unable to pay their bills after swathes of the economy were forced to shut down to curb coronavirus spread.
It emerged yesterday that almost half a million benefit claims have been received over the past nine days.
Around 477,000 claims have been ‘processed’ since last Tuesday, with 105,000 being made for Universal Credit yesterday.
The unprecedented pressure and volume of new claims has led to delays and people being unable to get through to advisers on the phone.
Mr Johnson said that while the Government was ‘putting our arms around’ every worker, he could not guarantee that the self-employed would not face ‘any kind of hardship at all’.
But the Prime Minister said he wanted to get ‘parity of support’ so the self-employed could have similar levels of protection to workers with jobs.
He told the Commons yesterday: ‘There are particular difficulties with those who are not on PAYE schemes… I think the whole House understands. We are bringing forward a package to ensure that everybody gets the support that they need.’
Asked what this would involve, he said: ‘I cannot, in all candour, promise the House that we will be able to get through this crisis without any kind of hardship at all.’
But he added: ‘We will do whatever we can to support the self-employed, just as we are putting our arms around every single employed person in this country.’
Last week Mr Sunak unveiled a plan that would see the state pay up to 80 per cent of the wages of employees if firms agree to keep them on.
But there are, as yet, no measures for the estimated five million self-employed people, who currently have to rely on welfare payments of around £94 a week.
At a press conference in Downing Street later, Mr Sunak is expected to unveil a ‘huge’ scheme to help subsidise the incomes of self-employed people whose work has evaporated because of the coronavirus.
It will feature a ‘bespoke’ mix of measures but will include an element of direct income subsidy in the form of non-repayable grants.
Sources acknowledge that it ‘won’t be direct parity in terms of maths but it will be parity in terms of fairness’.
Self-employed ‘at higher risk from coronavirus shutdown than employees’
The self-employed are at higher risk from the coronavirus chaos than employees, economists have warned.
The IFS think-tank said 22 per cent work in sectors that are badly hit, compared to 17 per cent of employees – although the numbers will be lower because there are fewer of them overall.
The self-employed are much more likely to work in jobs such as cleaning, hairdressing, performing arts, fitness coaching, or taxi driving.
According to the IFS, nearly a million work in sectors that will be mostly shut down.
If restrictions were tightened further, 0.8million self-employed workers in the construction sector could also be affected.
A further 0.4 million self-employed workers have a child aged up to nine, and no key workers or non-working adults in the household who can provide childcare while schools are closed.
This is partly due to the range of workers in the self-employed bracket. While many have lost their income, others have more work.
Many earn low wages in the hospitality and leisure sectors, but corporate lawyers and barristers on six-figure salaries are also self-employed.
Government sources said that in addition they did not want the taxpayer to have to support the incomes of people who have other jobs.
One source said: ‘With the employee scheme, people are either furloughed or they are not. ‘With the self-employed it’s different – work may have dried up right now but that might change, and this [lockdown] could go on for months.’
The sums involved will be ‘huge’ because of the scale of the problem and will run to certainly tens of billions.
Mr Sunak has consulted several organisations representing the self-employed over the measures.
A spokesman for one of them, the association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed, said: ‘We’re quite optimistic. ‘We’ve been calling for a fund to guarantee the income of most self-employed people who are going to lose out in this crisis.
‘We’re calling for 80 per cent of the wages of the self-employed, the same as employees, to be protected.’ At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, MPs from all parties lined up to ask what was being done to help the self-employed.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘The self-employed are having to choose whether they go to work or stay at home or face losing their entire livelihood, relying instead on an overstretched welfare system which could pay as little as £94 per week.’
Asked yesterday why the package was taking so long to arrive, Mr Johnson said: ‘We have increased universal credit by £1,000 a year.
‘We have deferred income tax self-assessments for the self-employed until July, and are deferring VAT until the next quarter. There is also access to Government-financed loans.
‘But there are particular complexities of the self-employed that do need to be addressed; they are not all in the same position.’
London mayor Sadiq Khan has said the lack of support for the self-employed has contributed to the numbers travelling into the capital for work despite the lockdown.
The Resolution Foundation thinktank has estimated that one in three people in self-employment – 1.7million workers – are at risk of losing their income.
Source: Daily Mail – Articles