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U.K. Ministers Plan $7.9 Billion Universal Credit Add-On: Times

The U.K. Chancellor and Prime Minister are planning to extend benefit payments at a cost of 6 billion pounds ($7.9 billion), according to the Times of London, as pandemic measures continue to drag on the economy and push many out of work.

Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson have agreed in principle to a 20 pound-a-week increase to the Universal Credit support payments for as many as six million people, the Times said Saturday, citing a government source. The extension may last for a year, the person told the Times, while Treasury sources said no final decision had been made and it would be dependent on the health of the economy next year.

Any increase in Universal Credit payments — given to people who are unemployed or are on low incomes — may be announced in the U.K. budget next year, according to the Times.

Sunak Tries to Rescue Britain Again—and His Political Fortunes

Sunak extended payments to furloughed employees until the end of March this week, in a bid to provide certainty to the country’s pandemic-stricken economy. The furlough program had been due to run until Dec. 2, when a partial English lockdown is due to end. But the government will continue to pay 80% of wages for the hours employees are unable to work for another four months because of the effects of the coronavirus. The extension means the U.K. state will be paying the cost of workers’ wages for 13 months.

Earlier, Sunak had been pushing to end the support program after October and replace it with new, less generous measures focusing on supporting “viable” jobs.

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