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Employment: Long Covid

Question for Treasury

UIN HL14070, tabled on 9 March 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the report by the Resolution Foundation, Long Covid in the labour market, published on 17 February; and the estimate in that report that three out of ten self–employed workers are ineligible for COVID-19 financial support.

Answered on

19 March 2021

The Government has taken action at Budget to improve the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), addressing a number of the recommendations put forward in the Resolution Foundation report. For example, the Government announced that, as the deadline for 2019-20 tax returns has now passed, HMRC will use these tax returns for the fourth and fifth grants, provided they were submitted by 2 March 2021. This means more than 600,000 people may now be able to claim the fourth and fifth grants, bringing the total number of people who could be eligible to 3.7 million.

The Government has also acted to improve the targeting of the scheme, as recommended by the report. The fifth and final SEISS grant, providing support in the summer, will include a turnover test (similar to those in operation in other countries’ schemes) to ensure that the most generous support is targeted at those who most need it.

The Government does recognise that some of the rules, criteria and conditions that were vital to ensuring that the SEISS works for the vast majority mean that some people may not qualify. This is why a wider package has been put in place to help provide support to those who need it.

Those ineligible for the SEISS may still be eligible for other elements of the support available. The temporary £20 per week increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance has been extended for six months, and the Government has decided to extend the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor for three months, to the end of July 2021, so that where self-employed claimants' earnings have fallen significantly, their Universal Credit award will have increased to reflect their lower earnings. In addition to this, they may also have access to other elements of the package, including Restart Grants, the Recovery Loan scheme, business rates relief, and other business support schemes.

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