More than two million self-employed people whose businesses are affected by coronavirus have applied for government grants, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said.

The value of the claims made so far is £6bn, he told the House of Commons.

He said the money would reach claimants within six working days.

The Self Employed Income Support Scheme is designed to support people in a similar way to the scheme for furloughed employees.

The grants are calculated as 80% of monthly profit, averaged out over a period of up to three years and capped at £7,500.

The money is paid out in a single instalment covering three months. The scheme is temporary, but is under review and could be extended.

The scheme is the biggest direct financial support package for freelancers and the self-employed since lockdown started.

The process is being run by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), which has been operating and overseeing loan schemes and the government’s furlough payments.

The scheme was unveiled in March after the government faced criticism for failing to provide support for self-employed and freelance workers in its earlier package of economic measures.

HMRC has invited 3.5 million people to apply for the scheme by sending them notices. According to the latest figures given by the chancellor, more than half of them have put in claims.

Mr Sunak has described it as “one of the most generous schemes anywhere in the world”.

However, those who started in business from early April last year will miss out, as will those who pay themselves just with dividends from a limited company.

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