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Coronavirus: More than 6 million furloughed and 1.8 million claim universal credit

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Around a quarter of British employees have been furloughed in the last two weeks at a cost of £8bn.

HMRC figures show the government is now paying the wages of 6.3 million people under the Job Retention Scheme.

Employers struggling due to the Covid-19 crisis are able to claim 80% of a worker’s salary, up to a monthly maximum of £2,500. It’s hoped the scheme will prevent mass lay-offs as a result of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that 1.8 million Universal Credit claims have been made.

Therese Coffey, secretary of state for the DWP, said: “Since 16 March to the end of April, we have received over 1.8 million claims for Universal Credit, over 250,000 claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance, and over 20,000 claims for Employment and Support Allowance.

“Overall, this is six times the volume that we would typically experience and in one week, we had a 10-fold increase.

“The rate for Universal Credit claims appears to have stabilised at about 20,000 to 25,000 per day which is double that of a standard week pre-COVID-19.”

Torsten Bell, chief executive of think tank the Resolution Foundation, said: “The 6.3 million jobs being furloughed shows in stark terms the scale of the economic shutdown that Britain is living through.

“If this kind of volume of workers stay on the scheme for several months the cost will run into the tens of billions of pounds. And that is a cost very much worth paying.

“Even despite mass furloughing, unemployment is still soaring, with over two million new claims for benefits coming though. This should remind us how badly needed the retention scheme is, but also that we are likely to be living with the legacy of high unemployment that coronavirus has given Britain, long after it has been phased out.”

The figures follow the announcement of Bounce Back Loans to support small businesses through the coronavirus pandemic.

The government said small firms can now apply for a 100% state-backed loan up to £50,000 but capped at 25% of a company’s turnover, interest free for the first 12 months.

The loans are available from major banks including Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Santander.

Read our guide to being furloughed here.

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