Covid-19 furlough scheme opens for applications

A Government scheme to support businesses and help safeguard jobs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has opened for applications.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme went live on Monday with businesses able to claim towards staff wages.

The launch of the scheme comes as the Government was warned of the economic cost for many companies of any delay in its implementation.

In a statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Our unprecedented job retention scheme will protect millions of jobs across the country and is now up and running.

“It’s vital that our economy gets up and running again as soon as it’s safe – and this scheme will allow that to happen.”

Under the furlough scheme, employers can go online to claim cash grants worth up to 80% of wages, capped at £2,500 a month per worker.

Approximately 5,000 HMRC staff will operate the scheme, intended to assist thousands of UK firms, with the money due to reach bank accounts within six working days, a statement from the Treasury said.

Phone lines and web-chat services will be available to help answer applicants’ questions, with the scheme launching 10 days ahead of schedule, it added.

The Chancellor earlier announced the scheme will be extended for a further month until the end of June, in light of the ongoing countrywide Covid-19 lockdown.

Adam Marshall, director general at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Our research indicates that two-thirds of firms have furloughed some portion of their workforce.

“With April’s payday approaching, it is essential that the application process is smooth and that payments are made as soon as possible. Any delay would exacerbate the cash crisis many companies are facing and could threaten jobs and businesses.”

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