The government has launched the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) several weeks earlier than planned.
The scheme, which was originally set to open next month, has today (May 13) opened its online service for the self-employed to make their claim.
The scheme will allow claimants to receive grants to cover as much as 80 per cent of their earnings during the pandemic.
HM Revenue & Customs has already assigned eligible individuals a specific date to apply between May 13 and 18 to ensure the online system is not overloaded.
The SEISS will cover 80 per cent of self-employed workers' average earnings over the past three years, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.
It will be available to all majority self-employed workers with trading profits of up to £50,000 a year.
Once a claim has been submitted, HMRC will carry out checks and pay the grant into the nominated bank account within the next six working days, with all claimants expected to receive their grants by May 25.
The grant will not need to be repaid but will be subject to both income tax and self-employed national insurance.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said: “We’re working ahead of time to deliver support to the self-employed and from today, applications open for the millions of people eligible for the scheme.
“With payments arriving before the end of this month, self-employed across the UK will have money in their pockets to help them through these challenging times.”
The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (Ipse) has praised the government for the “impressive logistical achievement” of launching the scheme early.
Derek Cribb, chief executive officer of Ipse, said: “For the self-employed, coronavirus is not only a health crisis, but also a pressing income crisis.
“That is why it is welcome that the government heeded our advice and created the admirable and vital SEISS. It is also excellent that the government has been able to open this early to many self-employed people in need.
But he warned self-employed individuals to be vigilant about claims management companies looking to claim on an individual's behalf, something which is not allowed under the scheme rules.
Mr Cribb said: “While most of the country is pulling together to support each other through these trying times with measures like SEISS, there is an unscrupulous minority trying to exploit the situation.
“Self-employed people should be careful when accessing SEISS not to be taken in by opportunistic ambulance chasers.
“We have seen reports of individuals and companies offering to enrol self-employed people onto the support scheme for a cut of their payments.”
Yesterday (May 12), the chancellor announced the government’s furlough scheme will be extended by four months in a bid to support people back to work in a “measured way” post-lockdown.
Mr Sunak revealed the Job Retention Scheme — originally set to end in June — would be extended until the end of October with no changes to how the scheme operates until July.