The government's furlough scheme will be "up and running" by the end of April, chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed at today's press briefing.
Sunak said the portal is "on track" to open on 20 April for applications and businesses can expect a "period of several days" between submitting an application and receiving cash, "if everything goes to plan".
Sunak said that payouts will be subject to necessary fraud checks, but that in theory businesses should be able to access the money by the end of the month and, crucially, in time for payday.
He said that the money for grants for SMEs had left central government and had made its way to local governments and confirmed that the last numbers he had seen showed that about one-third had already been dispersed to businesses. He added that the secretary of state was intensifying efforts to get the money "out the door".
Sunak also confirmed that there had been "enormous improvement" with the government-backed loan scheme, which had previously come under criticism, and added that he was "expecting acceleration in the coming days".
The furlough scheme was introduced by the chancellor to cover 80% of the wages of workers whose jobs have all but disappeared during the lockdown put in place following the coronavirus outbreak.
Grants to cover wages will be backdated until 1 March and will be available for at least three months from this date. Sunak has said there would be no limit to the amount of funding that will be available via the scheme as he unveiled what he called "unprecedented measures for unprecedented times".