Chancellor announces coronavirus grants to cover 80% of employees’ wages, but little solace for self-employed

Rishi Sunak MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP

Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a package of business support measures during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbeak which he described as, “…unprecedented in the history of the British state,” saying that the UK’s economic response will be one of the most comprehensive in the world.

He announced that for the first time in the UK’s history, the government is stepping in to pay people’s wages. Any company, large or small will be eligible for the scheme.

Government grants will cover 80% of retained employees’ wages up to £2,500 a month. That means workers in any part of the UK can retain their job and business owners can top up to full wages.

This will cover the cost of wages back dated to 1 March and will be in place for the next three months, but will go on longer if necessary.

“We will pay grants to support as many jobs as necessary,” said the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak.

“We said we would stand together with the British people and we meant it.

“We’ve never have a scheme like this in our country before. HMRC are woking night and day and the first grants should be paid out within the next three weeks.

“Business interruption scheme loans are available from Monday and now interest free for one year.

“I’m also announcing today further cashflow support through the tax system. I’m deferring the next quarter of VAT payments. No business will pay VAT until the end of June and will have until the end of the financial year to pay.”

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress responded on twitter, saying, “We’re glad [the Chancellor’s] listened to unions and taken vital steps to support working families.

“Employers can now be confident they’ll be able to pay their wage bills. They must urgently reassure staff that their jobs are safe.”

While employees now have some security, self-employed people still face uncertainty.

The universal credit standard allowance increases by £1,000 over the next 12 months and self-employed people can now access universal credit and SSP to “strengthen the safety net.”

The next self-assessment payment will be deferred to January 2021 and Mr Sunak announced £1b support for renters. Local housing allowance will cover at least 30% of rent in your area.

“These are unprecedented measures for unprecedented times,” said the Chancellor.

“Now more than at any time in our history we’ll be judged by our compassion. It won’t be down to what governments or businesses do.

“We want to remember how we thought first of others and we stood together. It’s on all of us.”

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