Applications will open this morning for the government’s £9bn coronavirus support package for the self-employed, with first payments expected on 25 May.
The scheme will open weeks earlier than initially anticipated, and will see self-employed workers get paid up to £7,500 as a lump sum for three months’ income.
Funds are expected in applicants’ bank accounts within six days of making a claim.
The scheme sees the government hand over a taxable grant worth 80 per cent of monthly profits, up to £2,500 a month, for the nation’s self-employed workers.
Only those who earn more than half of their income from this type of work and have half yearly profits of less than £50,000 are eligible.
The scheme is also only open to people who filed a tax return for the 2018-19 financial year, meaning newly self-employed people are not eligible.
The scheme was announced in March, with an expected start date of June.
Sunak explained at the time that the gap was to give people a chance to send in their tax returns to HM Revenue and Customs, which were already due in January.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, welcomed the early announcement.
“The self-employed account for 40 per cent of the construction workforce so the government’s decision to bring forward the payment to the end May will be very welcome news for the many independent tradespeople who operate in construction,” he said.
“The government’s support package to date has been targeted at businesses so the self-employed will be welcoming this cash boost at a time when they need it most.”
The package had previously attracted criticism from mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who said the package neglected Londoners.
He wrote to Sunak last month, claiming that up to 290,000 Londoners, 12 per cent of the capital’s total workforce, are not eligible to receive anything from the scheme.
Khan said the £50,000 threshold did not account for London’s higher cost of living and that the scheme needs to be altered to create a “sliding scale of support” for those earning over that amount.
He also called for newly self-employed people and those who earn less than half their pay from this type of work to be included in the package.