The number of people claiming Universal Credit as a result of the coronavirus crisis has hit 1.4 million, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said.
The figure is an increase of 200,000 on the total Ms Coffey gave last week.
She said the welfare system was “capable of processing and managing those claims” amid concerns of financial hardship for people who are unable to access any of the coronavirus bailout measures.
“We’re up to about 1.4 million people who have claimed Universal Credit and also other people who have claimed other things like Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance,” she told Sky News.
“So we are capable of processing and managing those claims.”
Ms Coffey’s comments represent an increase from the figure she gave on April 8 of around 1.2 million people who had made claims since March 16.
Coronavirus debt crisis
Advance payments for Universal Credit claimants must be given as grants, not loans, to prevent a “coronavirus debt crisis”, the Salvation Army said.
Claimants wait five weeks for a first payment after applying for the benefit but can take out an advance loan to help during this time.
But the Salvation Army said this could plunge thousands of citizens into debt, calling it a “point of critical failure that the Government must address”.
Rebecca Keating, the Salvation Army’s director of employment plus, said: “The Universal Credit loan system could cause a coronavirus debt crisis.
“Thousands of people who never thought they would have to rely on state support are now making a Universal Credit claim.
“Many of these will be forced to take out the bridging loan which will just move their money problems five weeks down the line.
“We are particularly concerned by those working on zero hour contracts that don’t have the same legal rights of other employees.
“Many will not have a financial safety net to help avoid getting into debt straight away.”