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UK to pay up to 80% of workers' wages during coronavirus emergency

UK to pay up to 80% of workers' wages during coronavirus emergency
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The United Kingdom is moving to help pay wages for U.K. workers to keep the economy afloat through the coronavirus emergency, the government announced Friday.

"Today I can announce that, for the first time in our history, the government is going to step in and help to pay people’s wages," Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said.

The proposal, dubbed the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, would allow any employer to apply for grants to cover 80 percent of worker wages up to a total of £2,500 a month, or roughly $2,900, backdated through March 1.

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That figure, Sunak said, is above the country's median income. Employers can continue to pay above that level as they see fit.

It is unclear what the price tag for the plan would be, but Sunak said there would be no upper limit.

"I am placing no limit on the amount of funding available for the scheme. We will pay grants to support as many jobs as necessary," he said.

He also announced a deferment of quarterly Value Added Tax payments to give businesses additional breathing room.

The announcement came as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered bars, pubs and restaurants to close as efforts ramped up to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Back in Washington, D.C., lawmakers debated a $1.2 trillion stimulus bill that would provide up to two cash payments of $1,200 for people making below certain income levels, as well as forgivable bridge loans to businesses that kept workers on their books.

Already, U.S. unemployment claims spiked by a third in the second week of March. Goldman Sachs projected that they would grow eightfold in the week ending March 21 to a record-setting 2.25 million, and that unemployment would eventually spike to 9 percent.