Brussels to free up €61 million for sectors worst affected by crisis

Brussels to free up €61 million for sectors worst affected by crisis
Empty terraces o, Brussels' Place Saint Géry. Credit: Jilke Tielemans/The Brussels Times

The Brussels government has freed up €61 million to support businesses in sectors that are still being badly affected by the coronavirus crisis, most of which are in the hospitality industry, including restaurants, cafés, nightclubs and hotels.

By mid-October, businesses within these sectors will be able to apply for a new type of support premium, Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort announced on Tuesday, stressing that the economic emergency in which they find themselves "necessitates new direct financial support."

"The entertainment sector, the catering industry and its suppliers, the events industry, culture, tourism, sports and even paid passenger transport continue to be affected by this unprecedented crisis," he said in a press release.

"They provide numerous direct and indirect jobs and undeniably contribute to Brussels' image and international appeal," he added.

Of this total sum, €45 million will be invested in relaunch premiums for businesses that are partially or not yet active, in the catering, culture and events sector, of which the government said "they need to be helped before a full recovery of their activities can bring them back to pre-Covid levels."

This money will specifically go to the recovery of establishments facing "serious cash flow problems and whose level of activity is still too low, and more specifically those located in neighbourhoods that have been badly affected," such as business districts and tourist areas.

Exactly how much aid a company will receive depends on the number of full-time staff a company employs and the loss of turnover suffered.

For businesses in the catering industry, the premiums range from €7,000 to €26,000, whilst a lump sum of €2,000 will be offered to startups.

Nightclubs, which won't be able to reopen in Brussels until 1 October at the earliest, as well as business in the events, culture, sports and tourism sector can count on €7,000 to €27,000 in premiums, whilst startups in these sectors can receive a €3,000 lump sum.

Extra help for tourism

For businesses in the tourism sector, the government has created a second premium type, worth €16 million.

As a result of the continued impact of the coronavirus crisis on these industries, as well Belgium's wet summer, the Brussels tourism sector has lost more than 70% of its value compared to summer 2019, according to Fabian Hermans, head of Brussels’ hospitality federation.

"Brussels is empty, dead, in an artificial coma. There are endless chairs on the terraces, but zero clients occupying them," he added.

Under the government's new premium scheme, hotels and aparthotels will be able to receive €1,100 euros per room, whilst tourist accommodations, bed and breakfasts and campsites will receive a lump-sum premium of €12,500 euros per tourist accommodation.

Those working in the sector have pleaded with the federal labour minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne, calling for the temporary unemployment measure to be prolonged after 30 September, when the current timeframe runs out.

Barbara Trachte, State Secretary for Economic Transition, recognised that these businesses had been badly hit by the crisis, stressing that they are all sectors that "need to be revitalised because they are driving forces of the economy and the attraction of Brussels."

The two support mechanisms - the recovery premium and a premium for the tourism sector - have been approved at first reading but will still have to undergo a legal review during a second reading before they can enter into force, expected by mid-October.

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