Firstly, if you have any concerns about your own health or symptoms, please visit 111.nhs.uk/covid-19.
I wholly understand that this is a difficult time for so many people, particularly those who are self-employed, and may face financial uncertainty.
You may have seen on the news last night, there is a new package for the self-employed that is similar to the support for workers and businesses.
Through the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, the Government will pay self-employed people across the whole UK who have been adversely affected by coronavirus a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month, for three months, but it will be extended for longer if necessary.
Self-employed people who are eligible will be contacted by HMRC directly, asked to fill out a simple online form, and HMRC will pay the grant directly into their bank account.
The scheme is only open to those with trading profits up to £50,000, leaving 95% of people who are majority self-employed eligible for the scheme.
HMRC will also ask people to demonstrate that the majority of their income comes from self-employment, and, to minimise fraud, only those who are already in self-employment, and who have a tax return for 2019, will be able to apply.
Although it is expected that people will be able to access the scheme until June, payments will be backdated to 1st March.
I hope this helps in some way and I just want to remind you of some additional measures that are available to you in the meantime.
- Universal Credit:
The Government has announced a relaxation of the Minimum Income Floor in Universal Credits for all self-employed individuals affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus. This will provide financial security for the duration of the outbreak.
In practice, this means that if earnings have significantly reduced owing to COVID-19 (be that through self-isolation or wider economic impacts), the UC award will increase to reflect lower earnings
In the attached letter, the Chancellor sets this out in more detail about this and explains that:
For example, a single, self-employed worker whose work reduces from 37 to 10 hours a week at the National Living Wage will see the full impact of that 27-hour reduction – and lost earnings – reflected in their next month’s UC award. If the MIF were to continue to apply, their award would assume only two hours’ worth of lost earnings (as the MIF assumes 35 hours at National Living Wage).
Overall, from 6 April, this measure will benefit many of the c.150,000 self-employed people who currently claim UC and who experience a significant loss of earnings as a result of COVID-19. Of the c.5m self-employed people in the UK, around 55% are likely to be eligible for UC support if they find themselves unable to work.
More information about how to access UC as a self-employed individual, can be found, here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19
If you have any difficulty in claiming UC, please do let me know.
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP):
Should you fall ill, you will be able to claim employment and support allowance (ESA) and/or Universal Credit.
The weekly payment for ESA is typically £73.10 or £57.90 for people under the age of 25. However the Chancellor is raising the payments for Universal Credit so that the self-employed receive the same amount as someone on SSP (£94.25 a week, for up to 28 weeks). This money will be payable from day one instead of day four for affected individuals. For more information on how to claim, please visit https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-style-employment-and-support-allowance.
If you do feel unwell, please follow NHS guidance which can be found, here: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
- Tax relief:
On Friday 20 March 2020, the Chancellor announced that Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021, to help self-employed individuals get through the coronavirus outbreak financially. This is an automatic offer with no applications required. More information can be found, here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses
The Government has also confirmed that reforms to off-payroll working rules (IR35) will now be postponed until 2021. Please see, here: www.gov.uk/government/news/off-payroll-working-rules-reforms-postponed-until-2021
HMRC have also scaled up their Time to Pay offer to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of Covid-19 and have outstanding tax liabilities. If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, please call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559.
For both private and social renters, the Government has announced emergency legislation to introduce a complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters. As a result of these measures, no renters in private or social accommodation needs to be concerned about the threat of eviction amid the coronavirus outbreak. This is set out, here: www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters
Mortgage lenders have agreed they will support customers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of Covid-19, including through payment holidays of up to 3 months. This will give people the necessary time to recover and ensure they do not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage in the interim. I would encourage you to contact your bank in the first instance to see what help they are specifically offering. More details can be found, here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19
- Local authority assistance:
At the Budget, the Chancellor announced a £500 million Hardship Fund to support vulnerable people in the local community amid the coronavirus outbreak. Please see, here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19
Most of this funding will be used to provide more Council Tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through similar measures.
I have been assured by the Chief Executive that Harlow Council will be setting out information about how to access this financial support on their dedicated coronavirus website in due course.
If you face any difficulties with any of the above processes, please do let me know and I will do all I can to help you.