17,500 applications an hour for Government's coronavirus furlough scheme, Chancellor confirms

The Government’s employee furlough scheme has received 17,500 applications an hour since it was launched this morning, according to Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Monday, 20th April 2020, 6:54 pm
Updated Monday, 20th April 2020, 7:08 pm

At the daily Government briefing, the Chancellor said 140,000 firms had applied for the cash under the coronavirus job retention scheme between 8am and 4pm.

He added that around one million workers are expected to benefit from the scheme, which guarantees 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500 per employee.

The scheme had initially seen employers claim for 67,000 jobs in the first 30 minutes, according to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Early indications from businesses trying to access the scheme are that the online portal continues to hold up well – with officials saying the newly-built systems can hold up to 450,000 applications an hour.

They have until Wednesday to apply, with Mr Sunak revealing payments will be made within six working days from applications being received.

He said: Over 140,000 firms have applied and the grants they’ll receive will help pay the wages of more than a million people… who, if they hadn’t been furloughed, would have been at risk of losing their job.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo: PA

“Firms applying today should receive their cash in six working days and HMRC will continue to provide updates on the number of people furloughed.”

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

Mr Sunak added: “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.”

Approximately 5,000 HMRC staff are operating the scheme, intended to assist thousands of UK firms, 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.”

Jim Harra, chief executive of HMRC, said he was “very confident” the system would work after it had been “tested at volume”.

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