Today is the budget, and normally we’d wait until tomorrow to tell you all the scintillating details. But one thing caught our eye that our readers probably are affected by: furlough is set to be extended.

Today Chancellor Rishi Sunak will take to the dispatch box to deliver Britain’s first post(ish) pandemic and he’s got an almighty job on his hands, balancing public finances with trying not to raise too many taxes. But ahead of the 12:30 speech, we already know one thing, that furlough will continue until September.

When the dust finally settles on the pandemic there will be plenty that we’ll look back and rightly criticise the government for. For PPE, not closing the borders, not locking down soon enough (twice!) and so on. But there will be two, very big, items in the ‘pro’ column: the vaccine rollout and furlough.

Furlough, paying 80% of workers’ wages during coronavirus has provided economic security to millions of workers, and have allowed to (just) keep companies, particularly in the hospitality sector, afloat by taking payroll off the books. It has stopped millions defaulting on their mortgages, being unable to feed themselves and has also left the door open to being invited back to work once the pandemic subsides.

Many companies have even topped up the final 20% to ensure that their workers remain fully paid despite being unable to work.

The announcement, then, will come as a huge relief to many who are still uncertain about how and when they will return to work, while it also helps companies planning to reopen by meaning they can taper their operations while the recovery may be shaky at first.

The plans will come along with expansion of the government grant scheme to the self-employed, with 600,000 more being eligible for help.

The hope now is that the Chancellor can pull off a rapid recovery. The vaccine rollout, which is far faster than in the US or Europe, will also help, but if Sunak’s 3 point plan to ‘fix’ the economy, outlined this afternoon, comes off then the feared mass unemployment at the end of furlough may never happen.

Watch the Chancellor’s budget today at 12:30

The announcement, then, will come as a huge relief to many who are still uncertain about how and when they will return to work...


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