Business leaders in Coventry and Warwickshire say getting money out quickly to companies for furloughed staff will be the key to survival for many firms after a new survey revealed the extent the Government scheme is being used.
The British Chambers of Commerce’s latest Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker revealed that 71 per cent of businesses surveyed have already furloughed a proportion of their workforce. Nearly a third of firms, surveyed between April 15 and 17, have furloughed 75 to 100 per cent of their staff.
They are now awaiting funds from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which went live via a Government portal on Monday.
And, with 59 per cent of companies saying they have less than three months’ cash in reserve, Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said businesses urgently needed money to hit their accounts.
She said: “The BCC tracker is a really strong, up-to-the-minute measurement of how businesses are reacting to the Coronavirus crisis.
“It’s very clear that funding furloughed staff has been one of the most popular business support measures from Government and, with the system going live on Monday, it’s vital that the money starts to get through very quickly – especially with April’s payday looming.
“The early indications are that the system is coping with demand and that is credit to the Government and HMRC who have got this up and running in a very short space of time.”
BCC Director General Dr Adam Marshall said: “With around 140,000 claims made on the very first day, this is a crunch week for businesses relying on the Job Retention Scheme to pay their staff.
“Our research suggests that over 70 percent of businesses will be using the furlough scheme in some form, so it’s absolutely crucial that it delivers.
“HMRC’s capacity to deal with the demand from business has been encouraging so far – and their staff working under immense pressure to get it up and running deserve our recognition and thanks.
“It is now critical that payments from the furlough scheme reach businesses as smoothly and as quickly as possible in order to protect jobs and livelihoods.
“Ministers will also need to consider keeping the scheme in place for longer, to help businesses transition as the lockdown is eased and the economy moves gradually toward a new normal.”