The coronavirus outbreak is affecting many countries around the world, with 1,543 people having tested positive for COVID-19 as of 9am on March 16, 2020, Public Health England has confirmed. The health crisis is also affecting citizens’ personal finances. What forms of assistance are available to Universal Credit applicants?
A number of measures have been put in place amid the coronavirus outbreak.
This includes the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announcing that people affected by coronavirus can apply for Universal Credit and receive up to a month’s advance payment in advance, without physically visiting a Jobcentre.
Meanwhile, those unable to make it to an appointment at the Jobcentre because they have to self-isolate have been urged to notify the DWP as soon as possible to avoid being penalised.
It can take up to five weeks for a person to receive their first Universal Credit payment.
READ MORE: Martin Lewis: How to manage mortgage payments during the coronavirus pandemic
For those who need financial support in the meantime, it is possible to request a deposit.
However, it is important to be aware that this must be repaid, from the first payment.
Currently, the advance must be repaid within 12 months. Gov.uk states that within this period a person “can choose over how many months you repay the advance”.
From October 2021, this repayment period will be extended to 24 months.
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If a Universal Credit applicant does not report a change in circumstances, they could see their payment stopped or reduced – and this is called a penalty.
If a person has received a sanction, they may be able to apply for hardship compensation if they cannot afford rent, heating, food or hygiene needs.
Gov.uk says: “If you don’t have enough to live on while you wait for your first payment, you can apply for an early payment after making a claim.
“You can also apply for hardship compensation if you cannot pay rent, heating, food or hygiene needs because you have received a sanction.
“You have to pay it back through your Universal Credit payments – they will be lower until you pay it back.”
During this time, people in financial difficulty or behind on rent, or their landlord, may be able to apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA).
This measure could see the rent being paid directly to a landlord, the benefit being paid more than once a month, or the payment being split between the person and their spouse.
A person may be able to obtain a budget advance to help cover certain costs.
- Emergency household expenses such as replacing a broken cooker
- Get a job or stay at work
- Funeral expenses.
The government explains that people who get a budget advance will repay it through their regular Universal Credit payments.
As such, this means that their Universal Credit payments will be lower until they have paid it back, and if they stop getting Universal Credit, they will have to repay the money some other way. .
Budget advance: how much you can borrow
The smallest amount you can borrow is £100. You can go up to:
- £348 if you are single
- £464 if you are in a relationship
- £812 if you have children
What an eligible person gets depends on whether they have savings of over £1,000 and can repay the loan.