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UK lawmakers urge Sunak to add 1 million workers to income schemes

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Chancellor Rishi Sunak chairs the daily COVID-19 briefing at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain May 29, 2020. Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - British finance minister Rishi Sunak must extend the government’s already huge coronavirus income support measures to include over 1 million more workers who have missed out, lawmakers said on Monday.

People who started jobs after a cut-off date in March for the state’s wage subsidy scheme or who set up a company in the last year should not be excluded, the lawmakers from parliament’s influential Treasury Committee said.

Self-employed people who earn more than a threshold set by the government, freelancers in industries such as theatre and television and directors of companies who pay themselves in dividends should also be covered, they said.

Mel Stride, who chairs the committee, said Sunak had acted quickly to slow an expected surge in unemployment as the crisis escalated in March.

“If it is to be fair and completely fulfil its promise of doing whatever it takes, the government should urgently enact our recommendations to help those who have fallen through the gaps,” he said.

Sunak has recognised that some people are not protected by his support plans but has shown no sign of expanding them again.

Nearly 9 million jobs are covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which pays temporarily laid-off workers 80% of their salary, capped at 2,500 pounds a month. A separate scheme for self-employed people has received 2.6 million claims.

Britain’s budget forecasters have estimated that the two programmes will cost nearly 70 billion pounds ($88 billion) this year, more than the entire government borrowing in the last financial year.

Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Stephen Addison