Businesses in Flanders received more than one billion euros from the government in compensation premiums during the lockdown, according to the region’s economy minister Hilde Crevits (CD&V).
When the lockdown was announced and many businesses had to close their doors, the regional governments all set up a premium to compensate business owners for loss of earnings.
The premium stood at €4,000 for the initial period from March 16 until June 12. At the start of the lockdown it could not be foreseen how long it would last, and in fact the duration differed from one business to another.
After June 12 came a new premium of €160 for each day the business remained closed. In the case of market traders, those who were unable to do business because the number of stalls was restricted to 50 were also able to claim.
For staff, meanwhile, the federal government extended the existing system of temporary unemployment, so that those who were unable to work – restaurant and shop staff, for example – could claim benefits equivalent to 70% of their average earnings.
The Flemish government received 134,000 applications for the initial premium, of which 104,000 were approved for a total of €416 million.
The daily premiums cost a total of €690 million. In all, the cost of the compensation came to €1.106 billion.
Crevits gave some details.
Restaurants accounted for 20,000 payments, with the majority being in Antwerp province, followed by West Flanders. Six out of ten cases involved a lone entrepreneur with no staff.
There were 95,000 applications for the daily premium, of which 60,000 were approved. In eight out of ten cases the applicant was a sole trader.
The system was set up to pay out as quickly as possible, so there was a cursory check on application, and a more detailed check after the compensation had been approved. Applications ended on June 30, by which time 5,567 checks had been completed, and 3,499 payments confirmed. The remainder will have to pay back any compensation they received.
“Many entrepreneurs were confronted at the start of the corona crisis with a major impact on their turnover and income,” said Crevits.
“To support entrepreneurs quickly, the corona [premiums] were set up very quickly. Many entrepreneurs have rightly applied and were able to make good use of the aid. However, there were also some who abused the system, and that is unacceptable.”
The Brussels Times