Sunak extends business loan schemes, jobs support

Chancellor Rishi Sunak loads produce into baskets as he visits a distribution centre on November 11, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Britain announced Thursday that it will continue to heavily subsidise millions of workers’ wages until the end of April, extending its furlough coronavirus jobs support scheme by one month.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also extended the UK government’s business loan scheme – and added that he will present his next budget on 3 March 2021.

“We know the premium businesses place on certainty, so it is right that we enable businesses to plan ahead regardless of the path the virus takes, which is why we’re providing certainty and clarity by extending this support, as well as implementing our Plan for Jobs,” Sunak said.

The furlough scheme has been extended until the end of April 2021 with the government continuing to contribute 80 percent towards wages. The government-guaranteed COVID-19 business loan schemes will now run until the end of March.

“Extending government-backed loan schemes will give companies right across the UK the finance they need to support, protect and create jobs as we build back better from the pandemic,” Business Secretary Alok Sharma said.

Businesses will be given until the end of March to access the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme. These had been due to close at the end of January.

The Treasury said the schemes have already provided over £68 billion in guaranteed loans.

The government has already announced that more support will be available beyond March through a successor loan scheme, details of which are not yet announced.

The furlough plan, first introduced as the UK entered an initial lockdown earlier this year, had already been extended from October to March due to worsening turmoil sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent data showed that 9.9 million people have benefitted from furlough, at a cost to the government of £46.4 billion.

Official data showed earlier this week that Britain’s unemployment rate has struck a four-year peak after coronavirus wiped out a record amount of jobs. The rate hit 4.9 percent in the three months to the end of October.

The number of total redundancies across all sectors meanwhile soared by a record 370,000.