The government pay scheme to keep staff on the payroll despite not working due to coronavirus has gone live and employers made 67,000 claims for workers in the first 30 minutes.
Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the government will cover 80% of workers’ wages, up to £2,500 a month, if they are put on leave.
Millions of workers are expected to be “furloughed” because of the lockdown.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “We promised support would be available by the end of April – today, we deliver our promise.”
The Treasury says the system can process up to 450,000 applications an hour. Employers should receive the money within six working days of making an application, it says.
Mr Harra told Today: “The big payroll date this month is on the 30th, so employers can claim anytime today, tomorrow or on Wednesday, and there’s time to get that money into their account for the 30th of April.”
On Friday, Mr Sunak announced that the wage subsidy scheme would be extended by a further month, until the end of June.
The move came after the government confirmed that lockdown restrictions in the UK would continue for “at least” another three weeks.
Mr Harra declined to predict how much the scheme would cost. Last week, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimated a price tag of £42bn, but that was before the government extended the scheme by a month.
He said he was confident that HMRC could cope with the demand for the scheme.
“We have scaled our IT system to cope with the maximum number of claims that we could receive – there are well over two million Pay-As-You-Earn schemes and our system is big enough to handle a claim from every one of those.”
Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “With April’s payday approaching, it is essential that the application process is smooth and that payments are made as soon as possible.
“Any delay would exacerbate the cash crisis many companies are facing and could threaten jobs and businesses,” he added.