Coronavirus: Chancellor announces £750m in funding for charities

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
UK chancellor Rishi Sunak leaves Downing Street in London, England. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday 8 April announced £750m ($923m) of support for the UK’s charity sector, following a severe drop in donations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The chancellor said the new package of funding would “support our social fabric” during the COVID-19 outbreak, saying the charity sector had not been forgotten.

Under the package of support, smaller local charities will be eligible for £370m-worth of grants. A further £360m of grants will be allocated directly by government departments to bigger charities working on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

The government will also match “pound for pound” donations made by the public in the BBC’s upcoming Big Night In fundraiser, Sunak said. The government will donate a minimum of £20m to the charity drive.

“It’s right we do everything we can to help the sector during this difficult time, which is why we have announced this unprecedented £750m package of extra funding,” Sunak said in a statement.

“This will ensure our key charities can continue to deliver the services that millions of people up and down the country rely on.”

The intervention comes over two weeks after Sunak was warned that many charities could go bust within weeks without state help. A cross-party group of more than one hundred MPs signed a letter to the chancellor calling for “an immediate injection of money” into the charity and non-profit sector to prevent widespread collapse.

Welsh Labour MP Stephen Doughty, who coordinated the letter, said on Twitter the chancellor’s support announcement was “welcome” but “well short of what will be needed”. Charities are forecast to lose £4.3bn of income in the next 12 weeks, according to an estimate quoted inn the letter to the chancellor.

Sunak said on Wednesday that charities are eligible for other government support schemes that have already been announced.

“The right answer for many charities will be to furlough their employees,” he said.

The new funding was announced by the chancellor at the daily Downing Street press briefing. He took the place of prime minister Boris Johnson, who remains in intensive care. Johnson was admitted to hospital for treatment of COVID-19 over the weekend and moved to intensive care on Monday evening.

The Chancellor said the prime minister was “sitting up in bed and engaging positively with the clinical team” and Johnson’s condition was “improving.”

Earlier in the day, Downing Street said Johnson “remains clinically stable and is responding to treatment.”

The Department of Health said on Wednesday that the number of people who had died from COVID-19 over the last 24 hours rose to a record 938. A total of 7,097 people in the UK have now died in hospital due to the virus.

“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those who have passed away,” Sunak said.