LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s finance ministry extended on Wednesday the cut-off date for its multi-billion-pound scheme to pay 80% of the wages of workers who are temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus shutdown after protests from people who stood to miss out.

The eligibility cut-off date for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was extended to March 19, the day before the scheme was announced, from a previous date of Feb. 28.

Employees who began their jobs after Feb. 28 would now qualify, benefitting over 200,000 people, the ministry said.

The support mechanism, which pays furloughed workers up to 2,500 pounds ($3,124.50) per month for at least three months, is expected to be fully operational next week, it said.

The scheme is designed to discourage firms, many of whom have been effectively shuttered by the government’s lockdown, from laying off staff.

It is the centrepiece of the government’s attempts to limit the economic damage and make for a faster recover once the restrictions are lifted.

On Tuesday, Britain’s independent budget forecasting office estimated that 30% of employees will be covered at a cost of 42 billion pounds ($52 billion) to the public finances. Around a fifth of that amount would flow back to the finance ministry in the form of income tax and national insurance contributions.

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