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Coronavirus: £6bn claimed by 2 million self-employed under government scheme

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Chancellor Rishi Sunak makes a statement in the House of Commons on the government's economic package in response to the coronavirus outbreak. (House of Commons/PA via Getty)

In Britain 2 million self-employed people have claimed income support from the government in the first few days of operation, chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Monday.

The chancellor said that 2 million claims had been made under the government’s self-employed income support scheme since its launch last Wednesday. Grants worth £6bn ($7bn) have been approved.

“Those people will have the money in their accounts within six working days of the claim and of course I will keep the scheme under review,” the chancellor said.

Read more: UK self-employed income support scheme opens early

Self-employed people can claim a one-off grant of up to £7,500 under the income support scheme, which was launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants can claim 80% of their average monthly income over the past three years.

Sunak disclosed the uptake figures in parliament where he was taking questions from MPs on the government’s economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asked about what the government would do to stop wide-spread layoffs in the retail and hospitality industries, Sunak said these sectors had received the “most direct fiscal support from this government” through grants, rate holidays, and more widely-available support such as the furlough scheme and coronavirus business interruption loans.

The chancellor said these measures should give the retail and hospitality industries “enough of a runway” to bounce back from the crisis.

Read more: Crisis measures to cost UK government £123bn this year

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds raised fears that upcoming changes to the furlough scheme in July would prompt a wave of layoffs across the economy.

Sunak declined to comment on reports that the government is considering asking businesses to pay 40% of wages under the job retention scheme. He said the Treasury was in “deep consultation” with unions and business groups but said it was “right” to ask employers to contribute more.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimated last week that the government’s coronavirus response would cost £123bn in 2020 alone and push up public sector borrowing to close to £300bn this year.

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