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Number of workers furloughed reaches 8.9 million

Written by: Emma Lunn
A total of 8.9m jobs have been furloughed under the Government’s job retention scheme, according to the Treasury.

Employers are now claiming a total of £19.6bn to cover the wages of 8.9 million staff who are on temporary leave during the coronavirus lockdown, up from £17.5bn to cover 8.7 million workers a week ago.

The figures are correct up until midnight on Sunday 7 June.

Meanwhile, claims made by self-employed workers who have seen their income affected during the pandemic have risen by 100,000 to 2.6 million in the past week.

The total value of claims made under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, which launched in May, is now £7.5bn, up from £7.2bn last week.

The furlough scheme was initially due to run until June but Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed it will continue until the end of October. However, employers will be expected to contribute towards furloughed workers’ wages from September.

Sunak has also announced a “second and final” grant will be available for self-employed workers from August.

This second grant will be payable at a level equivalent to 70% of the taxpayer’s annual average profits, capped at £2,190 per month, so the maximum amount payable will be £6,570 to cover three months.

Separate figures from the Treasury show that more than 830,000 UK businesses have borrowed money through the Government’s coronavirus loan schemes.

Lenders have loaned more than £34.9bn through the three major government-backed lending programmes, including £3.6bn of support to 85,000 businesses in the past week.

More than 780,000 businesses have been approved for Bounce Back Loans over the past five weeks, with £23.8bn lent through the scheme.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) has seen 48,000 businesses receive funding through so far, with lenders approving £9.6bn in total.

However, some business groups say the loan figures are nothing to celebrate.

Gina Broadhurst, co-founder of the #ForgottenLtd campaign for small limited company directors, says: “The fact that more than three quarters of a million small businesses have been able to access a bounce back loan is not something to celebrate but highlights the severe limitations of this Government’s approach.

“Millions of small business owners have been hung out to dry by the Government, and enabling them to take on debt is not the solution to getting them back on their feet. Small businesses should not be taking on debt at a time when many of them are already struggling. They should be getting support in the same way as employees and the self-employed.

“Because they pay themselves in dividends, this group of small business owners have received no meaningful support from the Treasury and have been shut out of Government support. Millions of hard-working people who have seen their earnings collapse to zero, yet who cannot access the furlough schemes, are being forced to borrow to put food on the table. This is storing up trouble both for them and the Government, which has backed the loans.”

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