MILLIONS of struggling self-employed workers will have to wait until the end of May to get emergency wages from the government.
Rishi Sunak will reveal today the tough news that coronavirus bail out cash won’t be available for them for at least eight further weeks.
In a bid to prioritise the nation’s most needy, HOAR can also reveal the Chancellor will target the emergency help at low and middle earners only.
The bitter sweet pill comes as Mr Sunak unveils his long-awaited package of support for the nation’s own bosses.
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 comes a week after the Treasury’s boss bailed out employees by pledging to pay 80% of their wages up to £2,500 a month to stop them being laid off.
But Downing Street sources last night said the same flat offer to fund four fifths of the self-employed’s income will not be replicated for them.
There were fears in the Treasury that Boris Johnson had “talked up” Mr Sunak’s package too much while answering MPs’ questions yesterday.
The Prime Minister told the Commons that it was his “desire to get parity of support” between the employed and self-employed.
But Downing Street sources instead said Mr Sunak’s guiding principle was “fairness” instead of parity.
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 nest eggs tucked away that they can delve into for short-term support.
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.
But until the brand new system is up and running, they will be asked to go on Universal Credit.
The Chancellor will also highlight how he last week hiked the job support element of the benefit to £94 a week, as well as point to the series of other emergency reliefs he has put in place,
including deferring VAT, mortgage holidays, scrapping business rates and free loans for businesses.
Insiders also yesterday claimed the new self-employed bailout has been “incredibly difficult” to set up, and there were also serious concerns about designing a system that took away the
incentive to work.
Mr Johnson also told MPs yesterday that the Government will “put our arms around every worker” to help them during the unprecedented crisis.
He told PMQs: “As a society and a country we’re doing a quite extraordinary thing.
“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.”
The Chancellor last week launched an all-out bid to save millions of jobs by promising to pay 80 per cent of the wages of staff kept on the books.
And the PM hinted today’s bailout for Britain’s five million self-employed will be on a similar scale, saying he wants “parity” of support.
Mr Sunak also extended the one year business rates holiday to all firms forced to close for the coronavirus lockdown.
That means estate agents, hairdressers, furniture stores, sports shops and other businesses forced to shut down for at least three weeks will pay no rates until April 2022.
It is an extension of the one-year business rates holiday handed to retailers, pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and travel agents in last week’s announcement.