Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves 10 Downing Street after attending a Cabinet meeting on February 14, 2020.
LONDON – The UK government has expanded its job support program as the country prepares for tougher coronavirus restrictions due to be announced next week.
Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said Friday that companies whose premises must be closed during winter due to local or national restrictions will receive grants to pay the wages of employees who cannot work.
The UK government pays two-thirds of workers' salaries to protect their jobs in winter. Cash grants for businesses in England that are due to close will be increased up to £ 3,000 ($ 3,893) per month.
The new program comes into effect on November 1st and lasts for six months. The BBC reported that the expansion could cost hundreds of millions of pounds a month.
In a statement, Sunak called for "the safety net for businesses across the UK that need to temporarily close their doors in order to get the right support at the right time".
The additional financial support stems from further coronavirus restrictions expected to be announced late Monday, with infections continuing to surge.
The UK has reported 564,518 cases since Covid-19 first surfaced late last year, with 42,682 deaths. Meanwhile, the Bureau of National Statistics said Friday morning that cases in England had doubled to around 17,200 a day in the last week by October 1, from 8,400 a day the previous week.
Two weeks ago, Sunak announced the first iteration of the Job Support Scheme – a new emergency package of measures to curb unemployment that will replace the UK's vacation program, due to expire in late October.
It will directly top up the wages of workers who work fewer hours due to suppressed business demand, and allow workers to hold their work for shorter hours rather than being laid off.
The original summer vacation program had subsidized 80% of wages for millions of workers on leave as a result of the pandemic. But Sunak confirmed in July that it would be wound up as the country emerged from coronavirus lockdown measures.
– CNBC's Elliot Smith contributed to this article.