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Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Question for Treasury

UIN HL5033, tabled on 15 December 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have, if any, to reintroduce a limited version of the furlough scheme to (1) vulnerable households, and (2) small businesses.

Answered on

22 December 2021

The Government recognises that the impact of the Omicron variant means some businesses are likely to struggle over the coming weeks. In response, we have announced £1 billion of new grant support for hospitality, leisure and cultural sectors to protect jobs and businesses through this period of uncertainty. We are bolstering our package of existing support with:

  • New one-off cash grants of up to £6,000 to support eligible businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors, totalling nearly £700 million.
  • Over £100m of new discretionary funding to local authorities to support other impacted businesses, particularly those in the supply chain. This is on top of the circa £250 million that Local Authorities already have available to distribute at their discretion.
  • £30 million will be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund, to support theatres, museums and other vital cultural institutions through the temporary disruption this winter.
  • The reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS) to help small and medium-sized employers cover the cost of Covid-related sick absences, covering up to two weeks per employee.
  • HMRC also stand ready to support any business affected by the coronavirus pandemic through its Time to Pay arrangement. As part of this, businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in particular will be offered the option of a short delay, and payment in instalments, on a case by case basis.

This additional funding is on top of the generous and wide-ranging support package already in place, which the Chancellor announced at the Spring and Autumn Budgets. Small and medium-sized businesses can access Government-guaranteed finance through the extended Recovery Loans scheme until next June. Businesses will also be protected from eviction if they are behind on rent on their premises, thanks to the moratorium in place until March 2022.

In addition, business rates relief for eligible retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses in England is available until March 2022. Hospitality and tourism businesses will continue to benefit from a VAT reduction, paying only 12.5 per cent until March 2022.

To support vulnerable households, the Government continues to provide funding to enable local authorities to offer practical and financial support to those who are eligible and require assistance to self-isolate. This includes a £500 Test and Trace Self-Isolation payment available to people on low incomes who are required to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, cannot work from home, and in turn will lose income as a result of self-isolation. In March 2021, the Government increased funding to local authorities for the discretionary scheme to £20 million a month to enable local authorities to widen eligibility criteria and support more people to isolate. The scheme is in place until March 2022.

As we have done throughout the pandemic, we are closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. We will continue to respond appropriately and proportionately to the changing path of the virus.

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