Business Secretary Alok Sharma said £12 billion in grants for businesses was now with local authorities and urged them to pay it out ‘as quickly as possible’.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street press briefing, Mr Sharma described the coronavirus threat as ‘the biggest the country has faced in decades’.
“On Saturday, I said we had provided funds to councils in England to provide grants to small businesses,” he said.
“As of today, these local authorities have received more than £12 billion.
“This afternoon I held a call with hundreds of local authorities across England and made clear this money must reach businesses as quickly as possible.
“I know businesses across England have already started to receive these grants.”
He added: “The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest threat our country has faced in decades.
“And we are not alone. All over the world we are seeing the devastating impact of this invisible killer.
“We recognise the extreme disruption the necessary actions we are asking people to take are having on their lives, their businesses, their jobs, and the nation’s economy.
“And, I want to thank everyone across our whole country for the huge effort that is being made collectively.”
Mr Sharma also said the new scheme would ‘not be perfect from the outset’ and confirmed Chancellor Rishi Sunak would be announcing changes.
He added: “We are listening all the time.
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“And in response to concerns we have heard from businesses, we are looking at ways we can ensure they get the support they need.
“The Chancellor will be saying more on this in the coming days.”
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