British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak announced Wednesday the government is extending emergency economic aid by nearly $91 billion to boost economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In his annual budget speech to Parliament, Sunak said benefits to workers left unemployed by the pandemic will be extended until the end of September. He said the government will also allocate nearly $1 billion to support the arts, culture and sports impacted by the pandemic.  Sunak promised to do “whatever it takes” to support the British people and businesses through what he hopes will be the final months of pandemic restrictions. Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak attends a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London, Britain, March 3, 2021.To help begin to pay for some of these programs, Sunak also announced that corporation taxes would rise from 19% to 25% beginning in 2023, by which time the economy should be past the pandemic crisis, he said. “Even after this change, the U.K. will still have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G-7,” Sunak said. The government will also freeze personal income tax thresholds, increasing revenue as inflation boosts incomes. The finance minister also announced the British Office for Budget Responsibility is forecasting the economy will return to its pre-pandemic strength by the middle of 2022, six months earlier than was forecast in November.  The bad news, he said, is that the impact of the pandemic will be felt long term, as the five-year forecast for economic growth is 3% smaller than it was pre-pandemic. 

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