The Chancellor has unveiled further measures to support jobs and businesses through the coronavirus crisis, including a pledge to cover workers' wages, a VAT payment deferral and loans for SMEs.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will enable any business to access a grant to cover most of the wages of people "not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll, rather than being laid off". These will cover 80% of workers' salary, up to a total of £2500 a month. Costs can be backdated to 1st March, and the scheme will be open for at least three months.

The Chancellor has also deferred the next quarter of VAT payments, so businesses will not have to pay from now until the end of June, and will have until the end of the financial year to repay.

Today, the Government launched the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, providing SMEs with Government-backed loans of up to £5m, while the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility will provide cost-effective ways for large firms to raise working capital.

These measures complement existing strategies to help businesses survive the coming weeks and months, including interest-free lending, the 12-month abolition of business rates in hospitality, retail and leisure, and cash grants for small business properties.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), comments: “This extraordinary economic package from the Chancellor packs a punch. He has not flinched from taking essential action to support jobs and underpin consumer confidence. He has offered urgent action to help firms operate now and in the immediate future. 

“The VAT deferral is a vital lifeline for thousands of firms and millions of jobs in UK retail. Hardworking staff across the retail industry should benefit from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which will guarantee wages and help keep people in jobs. But it is essential that both are delivered promptly and effectively.”