The government is reportedly planning to give 6 million people a one-off £500 payment to help battle the financial ruin caused by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has proposed giving the grant to people who receive the country’s main unemployment and wage support benefit – Universal Credit – instead of extending a temporary increase on the welfare payments, according to The Times.
Nearly 6 million working-age households currently receive Universal Credit but, compared to countries across Europe, the welfare benefit is low.
The government temporarily increased it by £20 per week at the start of the pandemic but this is due to expire at the end of March.
The Times, without citing sources, claim Sunak will announce the new plans at an annual budget on March 3.
Asked about the reports, a spokesman for the Treasury declined to comment on specific proposals and said no decision had been taken on Universal Credit, referring instead to comments Boris Johnson made to a parliament committee on Monday.
The PM said: “What we want to see is jobs. We want to see people in employment. We want to see the economy bouncing back.
“I think most people in this country would rather see a focus on jobs and a growth in wages than focusing on welfare, but clearly we have to keep all these things under review.”
The three coronavirus lockdowns since March 2020 has seen an estimated 819,000 people lose their jobs, according to the ONS.
The Labour Party has called for the increase in Universal Credit to become permanent.
Torsten Bell, director of the Resolution Foundation think-tank, said any one-off grant risked being poorly targeted, as it would not help those who lost work later in 2021 and would hand a windfall to those who found jobs soon after receiving it.