Belgium’s federal government decided on Friday to extend to the end of June measures taken to cushion the effect of the Coronavirus crisis on vulnerable economic sectors and workers.
Making the announcement at a press conference, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo also said the government had approved measures aimed at helping these sectors to prepare for reopening.
“We almost have two economies today,” with some sectors operating as normal, while others are closed or greatly restricted, said Mr. De Croo, who was flanked by many of his ministers.
“This is reflected by the fact that 270,000 workers are still on temporary unemployment, 20% of households have lost more than 10% of their income, and some sectors have been closed for almost a year,” he explained.
General measures to be taken by the Government include tax reductions for investments in small and medium-sized businesses, and holding over the December advances for payroll tax and VAT until fiscal 2022. This last measure was requested by the hospitality industry, many of whose businesses continue to shoulder fixed costs even though they remain closed.
A fiscal encouragement will be given to landlords to forgive all or part of rent due for the months of March to May in the form of a 30% tax-reduction for the cancelled rent.
A reduction of employer contributions in the events sector should be decided for the months of April to June.
Added flexibility is to be built into the rules on temporary unemployment, which will now be measurable in half-days to respond to the needs of certain categories of employees, such as school-bus drivers or workers employed through service vouchers.
Additional aid will be granted through social assistance offices to young people and students in difficulty.