UK throws lifeline to self-employed hit by coronavirus

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government will pay grants to self-employed people who have lost their livelihood because of the coronavirus lockdown, further extending an unprecedented package of measures to prevent the economy from collapsing.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak, who had previously announced the state would pay part of the wages of employees to dissuade their firms from laying them off, had come under pressure to offer a similar lifeline to Britain's 5 million self-employed workers.

He said the government would pay those self-employed people who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to 2,500 pounds ($3,000) a month.

"Our expectation is that this will be up and running by the middle of June," Sunak said during a news conference in Downing Street.

The scheme, designed to cover 95% of those who make most of their income from self-employment, will be open to those with trading profits of up to 50,000 pounds, for at least three months.

The cap of 2,500 pounds per month is the same as the one for employees in the package of measures announced previously.

"What we have done will, I believe, stand as one of the most significant economic interventions at any point in the history of the British state and by any government anywhere in the world," Sunak said.

Working in tandem, the government and the Bank of England have been announcing enormous packages of measures to try and cushion the impact of the coronavirus on the British economy.

The central bank carried out two emergency rate cuts earlier this month and vastly expanded its bond purchase programme. It said on Thursday it was ready to further ramp up its bond-buying programme if necessary.

(Reporting by UK bureau, writing by Estelle Shirbon, editing by Andy Bruce)

03/26/2020 17:38

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