Chancellor Rishi Sunak has today unveiled an ‘unimaginable’ £330bn range of support measures to help UK businesses through the coronavirus crisis – a package equivalent to 15% of the UK’s GDP.
With businesses across the nation rapidly heading towards crisis point as social isolation measures begin to limit footfall and spending, the government has been under pressure to come good on Budget promises to do ‘whatever it takes’ to help firms survive.
Hospitality and leisure industries in particular have been vocal over the past 24 hours in demanding government help, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres but stopped short of ordering them to close.
Sunak has today reassured them however that the government’s action would be enough for affected firms to successfully claim on their insurance for lost earnings – while also announcing a range of new measures.
They included a vast new business lending fund ‘on attractive terms’ to increase liquidity for larger firms, and a big increase in the business interruption loan scheme for SMEs, increasing the loans available from £1.2m to £5m on interest-free terms for the first six months.
The Chancellor promised the scheme would be ‘up and running by next week’, while adding a 12-month business rates holiday will be extended to all hospitality businesses regardless of rateable value.
He also offered firms which are unable to claim on insurance a £25,000 bridging grant, and upped grants available to 700,000 of the UK’s smallest firms from the £3,000 announced last week to £10,000 today.
Sunak said: “This is a public health emergency but it’s also an economic emergency. We will support jobs, we will support incomes, we will support businesses. The Government will stand behind businesses small and large.
“This is underpinned by government interventions in the economy unimaginable a few weeks ago. But in coming days I will go much further. Let no-one doubt our resolve.
“When I said in the Budget that I would do whatever it takes to keep people healthy and financially secure – I meant it.”
Sunak also said he would be meeting in coming days with leaders from sectors facing particularly acute impact. This will include a support package for airlines and airports.
Measures to support individuals included a three-month mortgage holiday for those in difficulty due to coronavirus.
Sunak added: “We have never faced an economic fight like this one, but we are well prepared. We will get through it.”