The portal for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is now live, with the government saying that businesses with validated claims will receive payments within at least six days.
Under the scheme announced last month, employers can claim a grant covering 80% of the wages for a furloughed employee, subject to a cap of £2,500 a month.
Commenting on the launch of the portal, British Chambers of Commerce (BBC) director general, Adam Marshall, said: “The opening of the Job Retention scheme is an important milestone for businesses, who can now begin to access the cash they need to pay their staff and protect livelihoods.
“The government deserves credit for the speed, scale and flexibility of its response to the challenges facing our business communities. The focus should now be on delivering this support to firms on the ground.”
He added: “Our research indicates that two-thirds of firms have furloughed some portion of their workforce. With April’s payday approaching, it is essential that the application process is smooth and that payments are made as soon as possible. Any delay would exacerbate the cash crisis many companies are facing and could threaten jobs and businesses.”
According to the BBC, chancellor Rishi Sunak said that with the extension of the coronavirus lockdown measures announced on 16 April, it was the “right decision to extend the furlough scheme for a month to the end of June to provide clarity”.
He told the BBC: “It is vital for people’s livelihoods that the UK economy gets up and running again when it is safe to do so, and I will continue to review the scheme so it is supporting our recovery.”
To qualify and to protect against fraudulent claims, individuals originally had to be employed on February 28 2020.
But following a “review of the delivery system” and to ensure the scheme “helps as many people as possible”, new guidance published today has confirmed the eligibility date has been extended to March 19 2020– the day before the scheme was announced.