One in four of the self-employed who applied for a premium during the coronavirus lockdown is still waiting to be paid, according to the federal minister for the self-employed and small businesses Denis Ducarme (MR).
The premium was introduced at the start of the lockdown in March, and was intended to help those self-employed forced by the health regulations to shut up shop. The monthly premium amounts to €1,614.10 for independents who are head of household, and €1,291.69 for others.
The premium was the equivalent of the temporary unemployment benefit paid to those whose place of work was closed because of the virus, as well as others such as retailers whose shop had to close when the lockdown was at its height.
However Ducarme’s office has now admitted that “25% of payments still have to be made,” according to Le Soir.
Of the various agencies tasked with paying out, four have achieved a total of 90-100%, five around 70%, and two under 50%.
The delay is mainly due to the fact that the rules have changed, according to Thierry Evens, spokesperson for the Union of the Middle Classes (UCM).
“Until June, the rule was to pay as quickly as possible,” he said. “But now, the instructions sent to us by [national social insurance institute] Inasti fill twelve pages.”
The increase in requirements has correspondingly increased the time taken to examine each file, he said.
Ducarme, meanwhile, admitted last week that the situation for many self-employed people was grave, especially from the point of view of cash flow – which the premium was specifically intended to address.
“The priority is not to take measures that will promote investment,” he said. “But to grant cash to the self-employed to allow them to cover fixed charges. If we miss that, we will worsen the crisis,” he said.
Meanwhile, as many business who were literally forced to close their premises during lockdown see their compensation extended until 31 December, other second-tier support sectors such as accountants, computer technicians – even for example bakers who supply to restaurants, who were not themselves obliged to stop trading but whose clients were – saw their support come to an end on Monday.
“The deadline is much too close,” said the UCM.
“The deterioration of the health situation and the resulting restrictions, in particular the quarantine of many people, will stop thousands of professionals from working.”
In April, at the height of the crisis, around 200,000 self-employed people applied for the premium in sectors theoretically authorised to continue trading.
“The fact that they took that step means they suffered a lack of income sufficient to cover their expenses and quite simply to live,” the organisation said.
“Closing the door to them in September creates the significant risk of job losses and even going under,” the UCM said.