Flanders spent €3.3 billion on coronavirus crisis in 2020
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Flanders spent €3.3 billion on coronavirus crisis in 2020

Credit: Belga

The coronavirus crisis cost Flanders around €3.3 billion last year to manage the social and economic damage it caused, according to figures from Flemish budget minister Matthias Diependaele.

The total cost incurred in Flanders specifically to combat the crisis reached €3.278 billion, of which almost half  (€1.9 billion) was spent on supporting businesses and entrepreneurs, the figures obtained by De Morgen showed.

“We have taken up our responsibility,” Diependaele said, referring to the premiums that are given by the Flemish government to companies that had to temporarily close down or which suffered large economic losses during the pandemic.

It also paid €168 million in premiums to those who had become temporarily unemployed, however, this scheme was discontinued in mid-July after it received criticism because people were granted the full premium even for short periods of temporary unemployment.

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Meanwhile, in the social sphere, the elderly care sector received €223 million, to deal with staff shortages by putting a temporary system of replacements from other sectors in place, and another €65 million went to Flemish care institutions, mainly for protective equipment.

Another €15 million were released to strengthen the family allowance for vulnerable families, and local authorities received €107 million to fight poverty and to support.

The Flemish government freed up another €128 million for a safe restart in schools and secondary education and provided nurseries with €142 million, whilst making up for the loss in compensations that were not paid by parents who didn’t send their children to the crèche.

In 2020, the total Flemish budget deficit will amount to €6.1 billion, slightly less than the €6,5 billion which was the expected estimate made by Diependaele in July 2020.

As a result of the economic standstill since the beginning of the pandemic in March, revenues fell by €2.5 billion.

So far in 2021, an additional €1 billion has been appointed for matters related to crisis management, however, this number is expected to further increase.

The Flemish government is gradually revising the financial protection of companies, and is instead looking to advance loans or provide guarantees for a smooth restart.

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times