Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a support package for self-employed people worth billions of pounds as the government stepped up economic support during the coronavirus today (March 26).
Government grants will cover up to 80 per cent of a self-employed person's average monthly profits, up to £2,500, Sunak said.
Early details however suggested the grants may not be available until June, and would only be available to those who have a tax return for 2019, meaning the newly self-employed will be ineligible.
Sunak warned that the self-employed could face tax hikes in the future as part of the effort to "right the ship" and repair the battered public finances after the coronavirus crisis is over.
Details of the scheme came as the Department of Health announced a total of 578 people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK have died as of 5pm on March 25.
Some 11,658 people have tested positive in the UK as of 9am on March 26.
Mr Sunak's scheme will be open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.
To qualify, more than half of their income in these periods must come from self-employment.
Up to 3.8 million people will qualify for support, with average monthly payments expected to be £940 per person.
Mr Sunak said the scheme, which will last for at least three months, "is one of the most generous in the world".
"It targets support to those who need help most, offering the self-employed the same level of support as those in work."
He said the measure covers 95 per cent of people who receive the majority of their income from self-employment.
But in a hint that the self-employed could be asked to pay more to the taxman in future he said it was "now much harder to justify" the tax breaks on offer to the self-employed if they were receiving the same level of state support.
He said everyone would be "chipping in together to right the ship afterwards" once the crisis is over.
A number of self-employed workers welcomed the Chancellor's measures but expressed concern about having to wait until June to claim.
Louise Barina, a production manager who lives in London, said: "After having spoken to our landlord, he has outright said no, that we can't get a delay on our rent.
"In terms of the payment coming in June, that's really problematic for us as that's obviously three months of payment where we need to find the money for that."
Photo credit: Pippa Fowles/PA Wire