U.K. Government Expands Wage Subsidies to Help Businesses Hit by COVID

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British Chancellor Rishi Sunak has set out an extension to wage subsidies for employees of businesses that have been forced to close down under new COVID-19 restrictions.The government will cover two-thirds of workers’ wages for companies legally obliged to shut for a period of time over winter as part of local or national COVID-19 restrictions.

The scheme will see the government cover 67 percent of employees’ salaries and will begin on November 1. It will be available for a period of six months and will be capped to a maximum of £2,100 ($2,726) a month.

Sunak said: “Throughout the crisis the driving force of our economic policy has not changed. I have always said that we will do whatever is necessary to protect jobs and livelihoods as the situation evolves.

“The expansion of the Job Support Scheme will provide a safety net for businesses across the U.K. who are required to temporarily close their doors, giving them the right support at the right time.”

The government’s furlough scheme, which saw it pay businesses cash grants of 80 percent of the wages of furloughed workers, up to a maximum of £2,500 ($3,247) per month, will end on October 31. It was credited with preventing a sharp rise in unemployment as businesses were ordered to shut during the nationwide lockdown.

It comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the north of England, with Liverpool, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, placed under greater restrictions.

There are fears that the government could be considering tougher restrictions in a bid to stop the speed of the virus, leading to condemnation by city mayors who have criticized the government for failing to consult with them.

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