200,000 more people furloughed in February
Another 200,000 people were put on furlough for the first time last month as the Government paid out nearly £4 billion to cover wages.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said it had paid £57.7 billion in furlough cash to around 11.4 million people since the pandemic began.
The furlough scheme supported employees who were unable to work because of lockdowns and other restrictions caused by Covid-19. It covered up to 80% of these workers’ salaries, taking pressure off personal finances.
Around 4.7 people were still on furlough by the end of February, the new figures show.
Businesses have also been given support over the past month, borrowing an extra £2.2 billion from three Treasury-backed loan schemes.
We’ll continue to protect jobs through our new Recovery Loan Scheme – part of our wider Plan for Jobs – as we move out of this crisis
Banks provide the money for the loans, but the Government has promised to cover 80% to 100% of the loans should businesses be unable to pay them back.
In the month to March 21, another £1.3 billion was lent in Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILS), and around £900 million in Bounce Back Loans, which help the smallest businesses.
It takes the total lent through the two schemes – and through CLBILS, a scheme for larger firms – to £75.1 billion since they were introduced between March and May last year.
Craig Beaumont, chief of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “1.6 million small businesses have now been helped to keep going through an awful year by securing Bounce Back Loans. As the unlock takes place, the economic recovery will rely on the successor scheme to fire on all cylinders.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “I said we would do whatever it takes to protect jobs and livelihoods and that is exactly what we have done.
“I’m delighted that our Bounce Back Loan scheme worked so effectively that it issued three loans every minute since its launch last May. That means every 20 seconds a hardworking small business owner benefited from this support.
“We’ll continue to protect jobs through our new Recovery Loan Scheme – part of our wider Plan for Jobs – as we move out of this crisis.”