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UK finance minister says govt taking steps to protect faith communities

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LONDON: UK finance minister Rishi Sunak has assured the country’s faith communities that the Tory government has taken steps to protect their interests and will be providing charities a package for the express purpose of helping places of worship.

The package is aimed at ensuring that the increased demands and challenges faced by places of worship such as mosques, temples, churches, and synagogues are met.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer was speaking to a group of ethnic minority journalists to answer questions related to minority communities.

He said the government understood that for over three million British Muslims it’s a particularly challenging time because they cannot go to mosques due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Sunak said that from doctors to care workers, supermarket staff to bus drivers, members of the Black, Asian and minority ethnic community are on the frontline of the fight against the pandemic.

When asked by Geo.tv about the closure of more than 1,600 mosques enjoying charitable status during the holy month of Ramadan and the financial issues as well as problems of survival faced by these charities, the Chancellor said that a £750 million grant has been announced for charities.

“I am thankful to the Muslim community for adjusting and cooperating with the requests made by the government. Income shortfall of charities is a reality and we are dealing with it. We have announced a scheme enabling charities to apply for grants as charities play an important part in development.”

The chancellor said that thousands of charities are expected to benefit from the grant. “Our charities are playing a crucial role in the national fight against coronavirus, supporting those who are most in need. It’s right we do everything we can to help the sector during this difficult time, which is why we have announced this £750 million package of extra funding that will ensure our key charities can continue to deliver the services that millions of people up and down the country rely on,” he said.

The Chancellor said that coronavirus support schemes had already provided over £15 billion for business over the last few weeks, which will be further boosted with this new scheme.

Furthermore, he said the British government was providing extensive support for people’s jobs and incomes. “Our most important and far-reaching policy is the coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, to keep people in employment.”

“Around half a million firms have already applied for help to pay the wages of over four million furloughed jobs; jobs that might otherwise have been lost. HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) are also on track to deliver the self-employed Income Support Scheme, as promised, in early June, and we will publish detailed guidance this week,” he said.

The chancellor said that almost half of all business properties in England will not pay business rates this year; almost 1 million business premises can now receive cash grants of up to £10,000 or £25,000; over 2 million businesses have been offered a VAT deferral, saving an average of £30k; another 2.7 million people will be able to defer their self-assessment payments.

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