Coronavirus: Chancellor to unveil ‘significant’ rescue package for businesses hit by COVID-19

The chancellor is set to unveil a “significant” economic rescue package to help businesses and individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Rishi Sunak will take the government’s daily COVID-19 news conference in Downing Street later and will use the televised address to announce the new measures.

It comes less than a week after he unveiled a £12bn package to support the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic in the budget.

Speaking after leaving a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government was “going to do whatever it takes to make sure the country gets through this”.

The package of measures from the chancellor will include assistance for pubs, clubs and theatres.

Addressing the nation on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Britons to avoid such premises.

But business owners have criticised the PM for not telling them to close – since if he did, they would have more chance of claiming on their insurance to save their businesses.

And with the end of the tax year approaching, many firms will be preparing for big bills on things like VAT.

Former chancellor George Osborne has called for a “massive” government scheme to underwrite bank loans to businesses.

He wrote on Twitter: “Budget measures last week were fine, but not enough.”

Industry figures have warned that many businesses could go under without financial help from the government.

Meanwhile, the Association of British Insurers has said the vast majority of businesses will not have purchased cover that “will enable them to claim on their insurance to compensate for their business being closed”.

The trade body for the industry added: “Standard business interruption cover – the type the majority of businesses purchase – does not include forced closure by authorities as it is intended to respond to physical damage at the property which results in the business being unable to continue to trade.”

As well as help for businesses, the chancellor will set out measures to aid individuals who could lose out financially due to coronavirus.

Fears have been expressed for the self-employed, low-paid workers and those on zero-hours contracts, who are not entitled to statutory sick pay.

The government has already acted on sick pay – making workers eligible for it from the first day they are off sick and the refunding of sick pay for small businesses.

But there have been calls to go further.

Labour, for example, wants Downing Street to increase the rate of statutory sick pay to bring it line with other European nations.

In the UK, the rate is £94.25 a week.

There have also been calls to help people when it comes to rent and mortgage payments, possibly by deferring them.

Labour’s John McDonnell said there must be no “small measures” and called on the chancellor to “get this right”.

“We need an unequivocal statement from the chancellor today that people’s incomes will be protected and that businesses will be fully supported to prevent any going out of business as result of the virus, and it has to be on a scale sufficient to meet this crisis,” the shadow chancellor said.

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