The Dorset Chamber warned the Job Retention Scheme needed speeding up to ensure firms could pay wages at the end of April.
Its demand came after a survey by its parent organisation the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found that exactly two-third of firms had furloughed staff in anticipation of the scheme going live.
HM Revenue & Customs says the scheme will be open to applications during the week commencing 20 April.
Ian Girling, chief executive of the Dorset Chamber, said, “Businesses on the frontline need cash to start flowing from support schemes fast.
“I recognise that the government has faced a monumental task to put systems in place to implement the scheme and has signalled that it will open for applications on 20 April.
“But with April’s payday coming up, we are fast approaching a crunch point, and both the furlough scheme and CBILS emergency loan facilities need to be accelerated.”
Girling added that even if firms applied on 20 April there was no guarantee exactly when grants to cover wages would arrive.
“We are fast approaching crunch point” Ian Girling, chief executive of Dorset Chamber
“While we’ve seen a high number of firms furloughing staff in anticipation of the scheme coming online, it is still unclear whether they will start receiving funds before their payroll date.
“This could exacerbate the cash crisis many businesses are facing. It is vital that the Chancellor turns on the taps and makes payments to businesses as soon as possible.
“Any delay could mean more livelihoods under threat, more business failures, and more hardship in our communities.
“It could be an absolute disaster if the money businesses have been faithfully promised is not there in time.”
Under the Job Retention Scheme employees can be placed on furlough leave, with firms still paying them but able to claim 80 per cent of their wages back from the government in the form of a grant to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
The scheme – announced on March 20 – covers the cost of wages backdated to 1 March and is set to remain open for three months.
Dorset Chamber, the county’s leading business support organisation, has more than 700 members representing 37,000 employees.
It is the only chamber in Dorset accredited to the BCC, and is providing a wide range of coronavirus support online.
It also delivers the Dorset Gateway programme on behalf of the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which has ramped up resources to increase the support available.
Visit the chamber’s coronavirus hub on its website for more information and to request support at https://www.dorsetchamber.co.uk/business-support/coronavirus-covid-19/.
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