ONE million desperate self-employed Brits have asked for a wages bailout in the last 48 hours, HOAR can reveal.
A total of 440,000 of the nation’s strivers swamped HMRC’s online portal when the new scheme opened on Wednesday, the Treasury said.
HOAR can reveal the extraordinary take up was even faster today, with more than 500,000 applying.
Revenue bosses are braced for a similar tidal wave to apply on day three of the scheme tomorrow.
Applications were staggered so the site wouldn’t crash, with a third eligible for it able to apply each day.
The flood means a total of 8.5 million laid up workers are now getting emergency pay from the state – more than one in four of the UK’s 33m-strong workforce.
Seven and a half million employees are already claiming pay via the earlier furlough scheme.
The scheme’s huge uptake reveals the dire plight that so many small businessmen and sole traders now face because of the coronavirus shutdown.
Under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, the self-employed can claim 80% of their average monthly trading profits as long as they earn less than £50,000 a year.
It is paid out in a single instalment for three months, and capped at £7,500 in total – or £2,500 a month.
A total of £1.3bn was claimed on day one by Wednesday night.
The money will start arriving by May 25 to ensure bills can be paid by the end of the month.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, said: “Britain’s self-employed workers are a crucial part of our economy and will be key in our recovery – which is why we’re doing everything we can to support them.
“I’m pleased to see our world-leading support scheme is already helping so many people, with more than £1.3bn claimed on the first day alone.
“This money will ensure the self-employed can get through these challenging times.”
An estimated 3.8 million self-employed workers are eligible for the cash, out of a total of 5 million who work for themselves.
The scheme is being rolled out two weeks early as it wasn’t due to start until the start of June.
It also emerged today that the spiralling cost of the coronavirus crisis has pushed the government almost £300bn into the red.
The Office of Budget Responsibility’s updated new estimate of Treasury coffers reveals the size of the deficit this year has ballooned to £298bn – more than double the size it was after the financial crisis of 2008.
Mr Sunak has already laid out £123billion in in emergency spending to try to save the economy, while tax takings have also collapsed.
Former Chancellor Lord Lamont dubbed the figures “staggering beyond belief”.
The Tory peer added: “My guess is this is going to be a very deep recession, and we must not abort the recovery by tax rises prematurely.
“We must initially let borrowing take the strain.”