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More than two million staff sign up for furlough in two days

More than 2m furloughed workers have been signed up for taxpayer-funded wage subsidies in just two days.

HM Revenue & Customs said a further 124,000 companies rushed to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on Tuesday, its second day. 

They lodged applications to support 900,000 staff, after laying them off as the pandemic has crippled the economy.

HM Revenue & Customs revealed a further 124,000 companies rushed to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on Tuesday, the second day it has been up and running

HM Revenue & Customs revealed a further 124,000 companies rushed to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on Tuesday, the second day it has been up and running

HM Revenue & Customs revealed a further 124,000 companies rushed to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on Tuesday, the second day it has been up and running

The subsidies, which amount to 80 per cent of workers’ wages up to £2,500 a month, will cost the Treasury another £1.1billion, on top of the £1.5billion committed on Monday.

It means that in just 48 hours, 309,000 firms have asked the state to pay the wages of 2.2m staff at a cost of £2.6billion. 

The staggering speed of the take-up underlines the desperate plight of businesses as they struggle for survival.

But it also underlines the sheer scale of the bill facing the Treasury, which recently extended the scheme so it covers four months’ wages – up to the end of June.

Before the scheme was extended, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimated the subsidies for 9m workers would cost £42billion over three months.

Experts have warned that the final bill could hit £60billion if the Government is forced to pay people’s wages for longer.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) estimates 71 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses have put some staff on leave, up from 66 per cent a week ago. Three in ten have put more than three-quarters of staff on leave.

BCC director general Adam Marshall said: ‘It is now critical payments reach businesses as smoothly and as quickly as possible to protect jobs.’

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