Coronavirus Update

We know people are deeply worried about Coronavirus – the impact it will have on their jobs, their incomes and their ability to provide for their families. We said we would support the British people – and we meant it.

That is why today, the Chancellor has announced a combination of measures unprecedented for a government of this nation.

Our Plan for People’s Jobs and Incomes, will protect people’s jobs; offer more generous support to those who are without jobs; strengthen the safety net for the self-employed; and help people stay in their homes.

  • For the first time in our history – we will help pay people’s wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – offering grants to employers who promise to retain their staff, covering most of the cost of paying people’s wages. 
     
  • We are also deferring the next three months of VAT until the end of the financial year – an injection of over £30 billion of cash to businesses to help businesses pay people and keep them in work. The Government is standing behind employers – and we are asking that they do their bit and stand behind workers.
     
  • We are also acting so that, if the worst happens, there is a stronger safety net to fall back on. So we are increasing Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months – that’s nearly £7 billion of extra support.

We will ensure people get the support they need to stay at home and do the right thing. This will mean we can protect our NHS and save lives.

Protecting People's Jobs

  • For the first time in our history, the British government is going to step in and help pay people’s wages – a scheme which is one of the most generous of any in the world – paying grants to support as many jobs as necessary. We will place no limit on these grants. Any employer in the country – large, small, charitable or for profit – who promises to retain their staff, can apply for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll, rather than being laid off. Government grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month – above the median income. The cost of wages will be backdated to 1st March and will be open initially for at least three months – and we will extend the scheme for longer if necessary.
     
  • Deferring the next three months of VAT tax, a direct injection of over £30 billion of cash to employers, equivalent to 1.5 per cent of GDP. That means no business will pay any VAT from now until the end of June; and they will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills.
     
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will now be interest free for twelve months, an extension from the initial announcement of six months. We have already introduced and announced an extension to the Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which is for small and medium-sized businesses. On Tuesday, the Chancellor expanded the amount that can be borrowed from £1.2 million to £5 million, and we are now extending the time frame of no interest on these loans from six months to twelve months.

Offering more generous support to those who are without employment: 

  • We are today strengthening the safety net for those who need it – increasing Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £1,000 a year – a cash injection of nearly £7 billion in the welfare system. We are increasing the Universal Credit standard allowance, for the next 12 months, by £1,000 a year. We will also increase Working Tax Credit by the same amount for the next 12 months.Together these measures will benefit over 4 million of our most vulnerable households.

Strengthening the safety net for people who work for themselves:

  • We have suspended the minimum income floor for twelve months – meaning self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate that is equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees. For the self-employed, we are also deferring income tax self-assessment payments for July until the end of January 2021. We will announce further measures to support self-employed people over the coming days. 

Helping people stay in their homes: 

  • We have announced nearly £1 billion of support for renters, by increasing the generosity of housing benefit and Universal Credit, so that the Local Housing Allowance will cover at least 30 per cent of market rents in local areas. 

Other previous announcements to support businesses and workers: 

  • We will stand behind businesses small and large – providing a £330 billion package of loans and guarantees – that’s worth 15 per cent of our GDP. And if demand is greater than the initial £330 billion we are making available today, we will go further and provide as much capacity as required.That means any good business in financial difficulty who needs access to cash to pay their rent, the salaries of their employees, pay suppliers, or purchase stock, will be able to access a government-backed loan, on attractive terms.
     
  • We will help all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors – meaning that none of these companies will have to pay business rates. All businesses in this sector are exempt from business rates for 12 months – that’s every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant, and any other business in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors. In addition, we will provide small businesses in these sectors with an additional grant scheme of up to £25,000. Any business with a rateable value of less than £51,000 can now get access to a government grant.
     
  • Providing grants to the smallest of businesses of £10,000. We are providing £10,000 grants to the 700,000 of our smallest businesses. 
     
  • For those in difficulty due to coronavirus, we are introducing a three month mortgage holiday – so that people will not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage while they get back on their feet. And in the coming days, we will go much further to support people’s financial security. We will work with trade unions and businesses to develop new forms of employment support to help protect people’s jobs and incomes through this period.
     
  • Making Statutory Sick Pay available for people diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are self-isolating, helping people with their finances – and a doctor’s note can be obtained via NHS 111. We have already set out that SSP will be available from day one for people who have COVID-19. But the Budget sets out that this will now cover those who are unable to work because they have been advised to self-isolate as well as for people within the same household who display symptoms. Those who are advised to self-isolate will able to obtain a doctor’s note via NHS 111 as medical evidence for SSP.
     
  • Supporting people who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, like the self-employed, through the welfare system so that nobody is penalised for doing the right thing. We will make it quicker and easier to access benefits. Those on contributory ESA will be able to claim from day 1, instead of day 8. To make sure that time spent off work due to sickness is reflected in people’s benefits, we are also temporarily removing the minimum income floor in Universal Credit. This means self-employed people who fall out of work will still get their full payment. And we are relaxing the requirement for anyone to physically attend a jobcentre – everything can be done by phone or online. 
     
  • Introducing emergency legislation to protect renters, so that no one gets evicted if they cannot pay their rent. Emergency legislation will be taken forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period. As a result of these measures, no renters in private or social accommodation needs to be concerned about the threat of eviction.

Q: How long until the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is up and running?
HMRC are working night and day to get the scheme up and running and we expect the first grants to be paid within weeks.

Q: Statutory sick pay doesn’t cover self-employed people – what are you doing to help this group of people?
Self-employed people are able to access support through the welfare system when they are unable to work. If they have accumulated two years of NICs, they can claim ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance. If they haven’t made sufficient contributions, they can apply for Universal Credit. As announced today and at Budget, we have made both benefits more generous and accessible – increasing the standard allowance and making payments quicker.