Chancellor Rishi Sunak will this afternoon reveal a bumper package of help for Britain’s army of self-employed workers, but there are fears it will take weeks for cash to reach them.
HOAR revealed last night that the long-awaited package will target the emergency help at low and middle earners only, and will not help them until the end of May at the earliest.
An eligibility cap is expected to be set at around the median income level – £30,353 last year – meaning it will include cleaners, childminders and cab drivers but not high earning professions like lawyers or tech programmers.
One likely option being studied last night is to use January’s tax return for the financial year 2018-19 as the new scheme’s benchmark.
It might only be available to people who can prove they have been directly affected, and likely won’t be given to every self-employed worker.
Just one in three might get help, experts estimated.
This morning a damning report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that almost one million workers were working in sectors which will mostly be shut thanks to the lockdown.
Almost one in four (23 per cent) self-employed workers were ALREADY living in relative poverty before the coronavirus crisis threatened their livelihoods, they added.
Around 800,000 self-employed construction workers may lose work, if they have not already, said the IFS.
Helen Miller, deputy director at the IFS, said: “Many low-income self-employed workers will see their incomes bolstered by the temporary benefit increases, but they are currently getting a lot less protection than employees.
“It is right that the Government look at what more can be done for this group.”
So far the Government have told everyone who needs emergency help to apply for Universal Credit or to claim sick pay help.
Yesterday the flagship benefits scheme said it had received nearly 500,000 fresh applications for the benefit.
Those with a house can also apply for a three month mortgage holiday, and renters won’t be able to be evicted for the meantime either.
Today’s package comes a whole week after the Treasury’s boss bailed out employees by pledging to pay 80 per cent of their wages up to £2,500 a month to stop them being laid off.
Downing Street sources last night said the same flat offer to fund four fifths of the self-employed workers’ income will not be replicated for them.
One government figure said: “No matter how we do this, there will be people who fall through the gap. What matters most is we get money to those who need it the most as quickly as we can”.
Better off earners are instead judged to have savings they can duck into instead.
Five million Brits – almost one in six of the workforce – work for themselves.
Some 1.7 million of them have already been left out of pocket by the crisis, the Resolution Foundation think-tank warned yesterday.
Mr Johnson told MPs yesterday that the Government will “put our arms around every worker” to help them during the unprecedented crisis.
He told PMQs: “For the first time in our history, to get through this crisis, we’re putting our arms as a country around every single worker, every single employee in this country.
“It is a quite unprecedented step. I know there are concerns about the self-employed, but he’ll be hearing more in the next couple of days from the Chancellor.”