At the daily Government briefing, the Chancellor said 140,000 firms had applied for the cash under the coronavirus job retention scheme between 8am and 4pm.
He added that around one million workers are expected to benefit from the scheme, which guarantees 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500 per employee.
The scheme had initially seen employers claim for 67,000 jobs in the first 30 minutes, according to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
Early indications from businesses trying to access the scheme are that the online portal continues to hold up well – with officials saying the newly-built systems can hold up to 450,000 applications an hour.
They have until Wednesday to apply, with Mr Sunak revealing payments will be made within six working days from applications being received.
He said: Over 140,000 firms have applied and the grants they’ll receive will help pay the wages of more than a million people… who, if they hadn’t been furloughed, would have been at risk of losing their job.
“Firms applying today should receive their cash in six working days and HMRC will continue to provide updates on the number of people furloughed.”
The launch of the scheme comes as the Government was warned of the economic cost for many companies of any delay in its implementation.
Mr Sunak added: “Our unprecedented job retention scheme will protect millions of jobs across the country and is now up and running.
“It’s vital that our economy gets up and running again as soon as it’s safe – and this scheme will allow that to happen.”
Approximately 5,000 HMRC staff are operating the scheme, intended to assist thousands of UK firms, a statement from the Treasury said.
Phone lines and web-chat services will be available to help answer applicants’ questions, with the scheme launching 10 days ahead of schedule, it added.
The Chancellor earlier announced the scheme will be extended for a further month until the end of June, in light of the ongoing countrywide Covid-19 lockdown.
Adam Marshall, director general at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Our research indicates that two-thirds of firms have furloughed some portion of their workforce.
“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.”
Jim Harra, chief executive of HMRC, said he was “very confident” the system would work after it had been “tested at volume”.
Editor’s note: First and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.
Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.
And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.
Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected] Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.
If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.
Sincerely. Thank you.