Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the furlough scheme, which pays 80% of the wages of workers who have been furloughed, will now continue to 30 April 2021. It had originally been planned to close at the end of March.
He said the extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) scheme would provide "certainty for millions of jobs and businesses". The latest data (to the end of October) shows that the scheme is still supporting 2.4 million workers, or 8% of the workforce, and in total has protected 9.6 million jobs across the UK since it began on 19 March 2020.
Mr Sunak also announced that he would be extending the government-guaranteed Covid-19 business loan schemes until the end of March 2021. Businesses will now be given until March 31 to access the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, all of which had been due to close for applications at the end of January 2021. These support schemes have already provided over £68 billion in guaranteed loans to over one million businesses and have helped many firms cope with the shockwaves caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This latest announcement comes in the run-up to the next Budget, which the chancellor announced today will take place on 3 March 2021.
"Our package of support for businesses and workers continues to be one of the most generous and effective in the world - helping our economy to recover and protecting livelihoods across the country," Mr Sunak said. "We know the premium businesses place on certainty, so it is right that we enable them to plan ahead regardless of the path the virus takes, which is why we're providing certainty and clarity by extending this support."
The government has already announced that more support for businesses will be available after March 2021, through a successor loan scheme. More details of the scheme will be announced in due course, with the government providing a further update on wider COVID-19 economic support at the Budget on 3 March.