LONDON (Reuters) – Millions of British self-employed workers will be able to apply for one-off grants of up to £7,500 from Wednesday, as part of a government assistance package for people whose businesses are affected by the coronavirus.

Britain’s government has been slower to offer support to self-employed workers than to furloughed employees, 7.5 million of whom are currently benefiting from a programme that pays 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 a month.

But in a programme government forecasters estimate could cost around 10 billion pounds, self-employed workers financially hurt by the coronavirus will now be able to reclaim 80% of their monthly profits for three months, up to a maximum £7,500.

Only workers who had profits of less than £50,000 a year and submitted a tax return for the 2018/19 tax year are covered – so some including people who started self-employment more recently must rely on less generous benefits.

“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,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said.

On Tuesday, Sunak extended the scheme for employees by another four months until the end of October, but said companies would have to start footing some of the 8-billion-pound monthly bill from August.

The one-off payments to self-employed workers will arrive by May 25. Not everyone will be able to apply immediately on Wednesday, as tax authorities will only accept claims on a phased basis over the coming days.

The programme – which is getting underway slightly earlier than originally planned – has been welcomed by trade groups representing small businesses and construction contractors.

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