The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is an important part of the government’s post-foreclosure economic rescue plans and was launched on Wednesday to help around 3.5 million people.
The Treasury said it quickly implemented the payment system after agreeing in March to supplement a PAYE worker grant – which paid more than 7 million workers to stay home on leave – with a grant similar for the self-employed.
At noon on Wednesday, the HMRC had received 110,102 grant applications representing 80% of average wages, or £ 2,500 per month, after tax authorities sent notices to 3.5 million of the 5.2 million self-employed workers she deemed eligible.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in March that the scheme would cover those earning up to £ 50,000, 95% of the self-employed, and would be “one of the most generous schemes in the world”.
Under pressure from concert economy workers and other groups of self-employed workers who had threatened to sue the government unless parity with salaried workers was granted, he said it would be accessible to those who earned most of their income from self-employment, so only the “genuinely self-employed” would benefit.
To minimize fraud, the Treasury insisted that only those who were already independent and who had submitted a tax return for 2019 will be able to apply.
IPSE, the lobby group for the self-employed, said the launch was an “impressive logistical achievement”, but criticized the continued exclusion of groups such as public limited companies and the new independents.
IPSE Director General Derek Cribb said: “For the self-employed, the coronavirus is not only a health crisis, but also an urgent income crisis. This is why it is welcome that the government has listened to our advice and created the admirable and vital SEISS. It is also great that the government was able to open this program early on to many self-employed workers in need.