U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has extended the successful COVID insurance scheme from April through to the end of December as part of his annual budget, which was announced Wednesday.

Known as the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme, the groundbreaking £500 million ($698 million) fund assures productions that they’ll receive financial support in case of COVID-related losses. The program has so far accepted 200 qualifying productions, and saved thousands of jobs.

“The government’s Film & TV Production Restart Scheme has already supported more than 200 productions to get back up and running, generating more than 24,000 jobs and helping the industry to generate a significant £1.19 billion [$1.65 billion] uplift in spend in the final months of last year,” said British Film Institute chief executive Ben Roberts.

The initiative took off in October 2020 and later expanded its scope to cover cast and crew over the age of 70, who were previously excluded from coverage. Productions can be compensated for COVID-related delays affecting up to two cast or crew members over 70.

Philippa Childs, head of industry union Bectu, said: “The Film and TV Production Restart Scheme is government intervention at its best, so the extension is hugely welcome. Our theaters and live events industry need the same backing to reopen this summer.”

As reported earlier, the government has added a further £300 million ($416 million) to the $1.9 billion Culture Recovery Fund, and additional funding for the sports sector.

“We welcome the government’s support today with further funding through the Culture Recovery Fund available for independent cinemas as well as the extension to the Restart Scheme for film and television production until the end of December,” said Roberts. “Independent cinemas bring benefits to communities in our cities, towns and rural areas, are often the only form of culture and entertainment, and provide thousands of jobs across the country.”

In addition, Sunak announced financial boosts for companies who take on apprentices.

Roberts added: “The new flexi-job apprenticeships will offer the next generation routes into thriving industries such as our screen industries.”

Julian Knight, chair of the U.K. parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said: “It is welcome that the treasury has listened to the case pressed by this committee for additional support for our outstanding arts, creative and sporting sectors that have been hit so hard by the impact of the pandemic.

“However it is greatly disappointing that the government appears not to have heard our call to give its backing to cancellation insurance schemes for festivals which would provide a safety net should organizers need to cancel plans and enable more to go ahead with confidence this summer.”

The Chancellor also extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, popularly known as the furlough scheme, through September. It was due to end in April. The scheme pays 80% of employees’ wages for the hours they cannot work during the pandemic. Some 600,000 more people are expected to be eligible for the scheme.