Self employed workers claim £1.3bn on opening day of SEISS, but support after May remains “50/50”

The government’s unique scheme to support the self-employed received 440,000 applications on the first day the scheme opened for claims.

Self-employed workers, which includes tens of thousands of taxi drivers, signed up to the package which handed out £1.3billion worth of income support on Wednesday alone.

From 8am Wednesday morning, self-employed individuals or members of partnerships  whose businesses have been adversely affected by coronavirus have been able to apply for a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits.

Millions are expected to benefit from the scheme with the payments – to be paid in a single instalment covering three months and capped at £7,500 – due to land in bank accounts within six working days of each claim.

Everyone eligible for the SEISS will be able to receive the government grant by 25 May, or within six days of a completed claim.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said on Wednesday: “We’re working ahead of time to deliver support to the self-employed and from today, applications open for the millions of people eligible for the scheme.

“With payments arriving before the end of this month, self-employed across the UK will have money in their pockets to help them through these challenging times.”

The government’s support package for the self-employed will be a welcome cash boost at a time when they need it most. However, no further income to support self-employed taxi drivers, and the millions of other workers, has been granted after the end of this month.

Earlier this week the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced the employee furlough scheme would be extended by a further four months until October with workers continuing to receive 80% of their current salary.

However, the self-employed remain unsure about their immediate futures with workers still looking for financial reassurances from the government to “avoid a cliff edge moment”, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

This week, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Transport, Rachel Maclean MP, said: "The Department is aware of the issues being faced by the taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) sector and are working with the industry to understand the particular pressures they are facing.

"The Self-employment Income Support Scheme will allow taxi and PHV drivers to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the 3-month period from April to June. This may be extended if needed."

Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), claims to have contacted Rishi Sunak for more clarity over future support after speaking directly with Chancellor before the SEISS was announced in March.

Image: Steve McNamara, LTDA General Secretary

McNamara said: “Whilst there has been no definite confirmation, it was intimated that there will be an announcement next week, I would be very surprised if it does not mirror the extension given to the scheme for the employed.”

Martin Lewis, TV presenter and financial expert, said on Wednesday via social media: “Self employ update: Not great news. I hear while future support's being looked at, no decision's yet been made over if there'll be another lump sum to cover time after May.”

Lewis added a day later on Thursday’s ITV ’The Martin Lewis Money Show’, that future support remains “50/50”.

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