Many of the claims are from self-employed workers who are waiting for the government to announce additional support for them.
Almost half a million new benefits claims have been received by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in the past nine days alone, MPs have been told.
An unprecedented 477,000 applications have been “processed” since last Tuesday, with 105,000 of these made yesterday alone by people facing uncertainty due to coronavirus.
Therese Coffey, the welfare secretary, said the benefits system was facing surging demand from those facing financial hardship, including the self-employed who are waiting to hear what additional support is available from the chancellor.
She told the Commons Welfare Committee: “The universal credit system is ready to take that, help them through the safety net of the welfare state.
“In the past nine days we have processed around half a million claims.”
Those claiming universal credit must have their circumstances, including their rent and how many children they have, verified by a DWP adviser and then face a five-week wait for their first payment.