Anne Marie's Weekly Column - Covid-19 Update

Support for the Self-Employed

On Thursday, the Chancellor announced a new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. Good news! The Government will pay self-employed people a grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month, for three months. It will be paid as a one-off lump sum. Self-employed people who are eligible will be contacted by HMRC directly. This will benefit 95% of those self-employed. Payments will be made in June.

I am aware that many self-employed people are already struggling.  For those falling outside the scheme, I am lobbying the government to extend the reach of the scheme. However, failing that the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme is available. The scheme provides loans of up to £5 million and will be interest free for twelve months. Details can be found at www.british-business-bank.co.uk.

Homeowners and those with buy-to-let properties can also ask their banks to defer mortgage payments for up to three-months. Borrowers can apply for the holiday by contacting their lender and self-certifying that their income will be directly or indirectly affected by the coronavirus. If you are a tenant experiencing financial difficulties because of Covid-19, landlords are not allowed to begin eviction proceedings for social or private tenants for the next three months. If you are self-employed you are able to claim Universal Credit, provided you meet the usual eligibility criteria.

COVID-19 Emergency Legislation

The Coronavirus Act passed last week as parliament broke up, is an important step in the Government’s action plan and its overriding aim to protect life, and the health of the nation, by limiting the spread of the infection and reducing pressures on key services.

The Bill includes measures to allow the emergency registration of certain health professionals and social workers to return to work. The Bill also eases the burden on frontline staff by reducing the number of administrative tasks they have to perform.

The Bill gives police new enforcement powers to ensure people are staying at home - protecting the public and keeping as many people as possible safe from this disease. The police now have the ability to issue fines and disperse gatherings. Additionally, 1,500 more officers have been recruited nationally.

Staying at Home and Working Safely

To drive home the social distancing strategy the government has asked that people stay at home, and only leave to shop for necessities (food and medicine), for one form of exercise a day, and to travel to work if it cannot be done at home. The exercise can be walking your dog, but ministers want this not to involve a car journey. I have appealed for that to change. While we must stop public gatherings, it is surely easier to socially distance in a larger green space ten minutes drive down the road, rather than keeping more people and their dogs on the streets.

To reduce social contact, the Government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close. With the exception of the organisations ordered to close, the government has not required any other businesses to close – indeed it is important for business to carry on. If you are working because you are a key worker, or work for a business not required to close, your employer should be ensuring that you are working safely, enabling 2-meter distancing, and where appropriate providing protective clothing. Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working.

For those self-isolating, I have listed local community groups and businesses that are offering help including food deliveries. Details can be found on my website www.annemariemorris.co.uk. If you know of others I should add, please email my office annemarie@annemariemorris.co.uk.

My next phone-in surgery will be Friday 3rd April at 12-1pm. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.