By DANICA KIRKA and PAN PYLAS
LONDON (AP) — The British government unveiled a package of measures on Wednesday that it hopes will kick-start the economy and limit the anticipated spike in unemployment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Treasury chief Rishi Sunak outlined a series of incentives for businesses to retain and hire staff, funding for training and environmental projects, some targeted tax cuts and a new “Eat Out to Help Out” discount scheme.
“People need to know that although hardship lies ahead, no-one will be left without hope,” he said.
Sunak announced targeted measures for the U.K.’s tourism and hospitality sector, which has suffered badly during the lockdown — pubs and restaurants, for example, were only able to reopen on Saturday for the first time in more than three months.
Sunak said firms within those sectors will see their sales tax slashed to 5% from 20% currently. This measure, Sunak said, is worth 4 billion pounds ($5 billion) and will help companies support 2.4 million jobs.
He also announced an “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme for the month of August that will give people a 50% discount at participating restaurants, cafes and pubs between Monday and Wednesday up to a maximum 10 pounds per person.
Sunak also announced a new scheme that could cost up to 9 billion pounds to encourage employers to bring back workers who were retained rather than fired over the past few months.
While confirming that the current Job Retention Scheme will end in October, Sunak said the government will pay companies a 1,000-pound bonus for each employee they take back.
“Leaving the furlough scheme open forever gives people false hope that it will always be possible to return to the jobs they had before,” he said.
“The longer people are on furlough, the more likely it is their skills could fade, and they will find it harder to get new opportunities,” he added.
Other measures announced included 2 billion pounds to fund work placement schemes for 16-to-24-year-olds, a 3 billion-pound environmental package as well as the temporary elimination of a tax on house purchases below 500,000 pounds.
Sunak said his “plan for jobs” will give businesses the confidence to retain and hire.
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