Covid-19 Help Page

We’re doing our best to edit and update this post as new information and help emerges. We’re all in this together, so let’s pull together! As with our Universal Credit Post, if you know anything that would benefit others, let us know and we’ll add it in.

A bit of industry love

First thing to say is HOW AMAZING and RESILLIANT our industry and the people in it are! There are so many Skype/Zoom dance classes/home workouts/Instagram Lives/Performances/Podcasts and Radio shows to name a few) popping up left right and centre stage to keep us all uplifted in these uncertain times.

Here’s a few I’ve seen but by all means let me know and I’ll keep on adding:

Self-employed income support scheme

The government has committed to paying self-employed people 80% of their average trading profit over the last 3 years, up to £2,500/month, as a grant – this means you don’t have to pay it back!

The first payments of this grant will be made in June (although they will be backdated to include March, April and May). Don't worry, you can still claim Universal Credit now and get access to this scheme when they roll it out.

We've made a whole post for this right here.

Universal Credit

If you don't qualify for Self-employment Income Support Scheme or you need help before this fund becomes available (June for first payment), then you may find Universal Credit to be the most appropriate source of help. As we say above... don't worry, you can still claim Universal Credit now and get access to this scheme when they roll it out.

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly - or twice a month for some people in Scotland - and you may be able to get it if you’re on a low income or out of work. The amount you get depends on your earnings and is made up of a standard allowance and any extra amounts that apply to you (e.g. if you have children, a disability or need help paying your rent).

We've made a whole post for this right here.

Are you eligible for furlough?

With so many of us in our industry doing a mixture of employed and self-employed jobs throughout our career, it's definitely worth checking this one! Maybe you work FOH or for an agency?

First, check how you're taxed on that work - is it through PAYE? Ie. Your tax is taken at source (your employer) and given to HMRC on your behalf. If this is the case, then you're employed and eligible for furlough.

This is part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme where the Government will pay 80% of your usual pre-tax monthly salary, as it was on 28 February 2020 (note that fees, commission or bonuses on top of your usual salary aren't included). If your pay varies from month to month - like on a zero-hours contract - the 80% will be calculated based on the higher of:

  • your earnings in the same month of the previous year; or
  • your average monthly earnings from the 2019/20 tax year.

If you've worked for your employer for less than a year, it'll be calculated based on your average monthly earnings while you've worked there.

July Tax Bill Push Back

To help the self-employed, the Government is delaying the next set of self-assessment tax payments (due July 2020) to January 2021. If you pay the majority of your tax via self-assessment and your tax bill is over £1,000, then you make two payments each year to pay off the previous year's tax bill, one by 31 January (when your tax return is due) and one by 31 July.

No penalties or interest will be charged, and it happens automatically so you don’t have to apply for it. One less phone call to HMRC to worry about at least!

Sick Pay

You can't get statutory sick pay (SSP) if you're self-employed. However, if you have to take time off work due to coronavirus – because you're sick or self-isolating - you might be entitled to claim benefits. If you're not claiming any benefits already, you might be entitled to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit to top up your income. We’ve got a Universal credit post and below is some more information on ESA.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

You can apply for contribution-based employment and support allowance (ESA) if you're directly affected by coronavirus or self-isolating according to Government advice. To be eligible, you must have paid enough national insurance contributions in the last two to three years. Normally, this means you may be able to get it if you’ve paid and/or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions in the 2 full tax years before the year you’re claiming in. Here’s the HMRC page on eligibility: https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance/eligibility.

It’s a fortnightly payment that can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit and is a contributory benefit where you can get up to £73/week. The amount won't be affected by either you or your partner's savings or income (unlike Universal Credit), though if you get a private pension worth more than £85/week it'll be reduced.

Because of Covid-19 the Government is changing the rules so you're eligible to claim ESA from the first day of sickness/self-isolation rather than the eighth, as was previously the case. This change has been announced, but hasn't kicked in yet. When it does, the new rule will be backdated to Friday 13 March. Given that payments are made fortnightly in arrears, claimants who meet the criteria should actually receive their first payment after around two weeks.

ESA Helpline: 0800 055 6688 (textphone 0800 023 4888).
This HMRC website link has a helpful table that compares your situation with ESA and Universal credit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-style-employment-and-support-allowance

Here is the HMRC page on ESA including how to apply: https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance

Tax repayment help

If you are self-employed or own a business and you are concerned about not being able to pay your tax bills because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for support through Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) Time to Pay service. It gives you a time-limited deferral period on what you owe HMRC and a pre-agreed time period to pay what you owe. The arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. It can help by:

  • agreeing an instalment arrangement
  • suspending debt collection proceedings
  • cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately

There is a PDF about the Time To Pay scheme and a hotline is open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm (number below).

Time To Pay Hotline: 0800 0159 559

Equity

Here’s a list of support through Equity with the links below

Theatre Support

Theatre support have set up a page for theatrical charities to centralise information about how and where to get help during the Coronavirus outbreak. There is also a helpline and email address should you need to contact them.

Link here: https://theatresupport.info/

Dance Professionals Fund

There are 5 possible one-off grants including help in a crisis and help with living costs and to apply you just need to fill in an application and have an up-to-date CV and most recent bank statement.

Here’s the link: https://www.dancefund.org.uk/grants

Actors Benevolent Fund

This offers weekly payments, and grants large and small to Actors and Stage managers who are ijured, ill or in old-age. Note that the Actors Benevolent Fund are only considering applications from professional actors, actresses and stage managers who have contracted Covid-19, or are self-isolating because they are unwell, once the applicant has applied for Universal Credit or Employment Support Allowance. They state that they are unable to consider applications from individuals yet to apply for either of those benefits, nor can they consider helping if the applicant is not unwell.

Here’s the link: https://www.actorsbenevolentfund.co.uk

Mad Trust Crisis Fund

The Crisis Fund is designed to provide support to those industry members who are experiencing unexpected financial distress as a direct result of Coronavirus COVID-19. People who have worked for a MAD Trust event are being prioritised and you can get up to £200.

Link here: https://www.madtrust.org.uk/project/make-a-difference-coronavirus-covid-19-hardship-fund

Acting For Others

This is a group of 14 charities that provides help to all theatre members. And the best bit is that the President is Dame Judi Dench! Some of these charities are already listed in this post.

Here’s the link to the page: http://actingforothers.co.uk/member-charities

Arts Council

Artists and practitioners can apply for grants up to £2,500 with the Arts Council as they're making £20 million available to individuals working in the cultural sector in response to Covid-19. However, to get it you need to have a 'track record' in publicly funded culture.

Link here: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/covid-19/financial-support-artists-creative-practitioners-and-freelancers

Citizen’s Advice

You may be able to get help paying your rent, buying daily essentials and/or getting any benefits you’re entitles to paid early through your local council or through a government loan. Check out citizen’s advice.

Link here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/help-if-on-a-low-income/if-youre-struggling-with-living-costs

Emergency Funding

This is for people who are struggling to get by day-to-day and are in a cash crisis. This page covers food banks, short-term benefits and a whole host of other help and information.

Link here: https://www.stepchange.org/debt-info/emergency-funding.aspx

Final thoughts

As before, we will keep editing this post as best we can to give you the most up-to-date and relevant help possible. As such, like with our Universal Credit post, we strongly recommend that if you have questions about any of the above you use the links and helplines rather than sending your questions to us...

Needless to say, the above is all financial tips. Please make sure you are following the government guidance (as opposed to 'tips found on Facebook') to ensure you and those around you stay safe - the world is going to need us performers to cheer it up when we get through this.


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Love Jo and James x