A new Committee to address the economic and business issues presented by COVID-19 has met for the first time today.

The Committee is chaired by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, with Secretary of State for Business Alok Sharma as Deputy Chair. It is also attended by the Secretaries of State for DCMS, Transport, MHCLG, DIT and DWP, as well as senior officials from across Whitehall.

The Committee discussed government support for businesses affected by COVID-19, including urgent progress on delivering the £12 billion of measures to support businesses in last week’s Budget:

  • reimbursing small and medium-sized businesses for up to two weeks’ statutory sick pay for each employee absent due to COVID-19
  • extending business rates cuts so that 900,000 small businesses will pay no rates at all in 2020/21, to help them manage financial pressures created by COVID-19
  • providing £2.2 billion funding for one-off grants of £3,000 to around 700,000 small businesses and businesses
  • a new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to be launched within weeks to support businesses to access £1bn of additional bank lending
  • a dedicated HMRC helpline to enable businesses in financial distress to discuss deferring tax bills where necessary

The Chancellor updated the Committee on last Thursday’s meeting with financial services firms which agreed an additional £21 billion of lending capacity to firms. The Committee agreed that further measures would be taken as the situation develops, and agreed a reinforced effort to ensure that businesses are aware of support available to them and know how to access it. The Chancellor asked Cabinet Ministers to lead round tables with business groups, including in those sectors most directly affected. The Committee also discussed the importance of keeping under review regulations, and lightening their burden where possible, including in response to requests from business.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:

We are doing everything we can to keep this country, and our people, healthy and financially secure. We know how concerned businesses are and are working around the clock to ensure they have access to the funding and support they need.

Secretary of State for Business, Alok Sharma said:

Businesses have a vital role to play in fighting the spread of the Coronavirus, from looking after the wellbeing of their employees, to keeping goods and services flowing wherever possible. I am having ongoing conversations with businesses from across different sectors and the government stands ready to provide the support that is required.

the Committee will continue to meet weekly, and more regularly as required

the Chancellor met the new Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, earlier this morning. The Treasury and Bank of England are working closely together to support the economy through COVID-19. The measures announced by the Chancellor on Wednesday are on top of the measures the Bank of England is taking to free up an additional £190 billion for banks to lend to businesses, and a new £100 billion scheme to help ensure households and businesses – particularly small businesses – benefit from the reduction in interest rates to 0.25%.

the economic response to the COVID-19 situation was also discussed at COBRA earlier in the afternoon

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