Belgium rolls out support package for economy, €200 million for hospitals
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Belgium rolls out support package for economy, €200 million for hospitals

Credit: Belga

Belgium’s federal government is allocating an additional €200 million to hospital staff, and implementing and expanding a broad support package of measures to help the economic sector through the second coronavirus lockdown.

To keep the Belgian economy afloat during and after the second wave of coronavirus infections, the Consultative Committee introduced a broad package of new support measures for workers, employers, the self-employed and so-called vulnerable groups.

Additionally, several existing measures will be extended or expanded, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and his core cabinet announced on Friday.

For workers
To put into practice the “appreciation and respect” for the hospital staff and home nurses, the government will provide a one-off €200 million grant to compensate for their efforts, announced Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. How the money will be spent exactly, will be discussed with the social partners in the near future, Vandenbroucke said.

The government also extended several existing measures for workers, such as the postponement of payment of loans.

Additionally, they will also work out a plan to support employees who are teleworking, looking at the problems they encounter in doing so. Stress and burn-out coaches will be deployed, supervisors and managers will receive trainings to manage staff remotely, and the selection procedures for civil servants will be adapted so it can be done remotely.

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For companies
The federal government is extending existing measures, such as the temporary unemployment due to force majeure. Additionally, the same measures will now apply to all businesses, not just those that have been forced to close.

The increased investment deduction of 25%, the guarantee system for SMEs, and the credit insurance guarantee scheme are also being extended.

The government will also intervene in part for the financing of holiday pay for the temporarily unemployed. The exemption from the social security contribution for the third quarter will be extended to other sectors that were forced to close down, in addition to the hospitality industry and the events sector.

For the self-employed
Self-employed workers in the sectors that were forced to shut down will be able to use the so-called ‘crisis bridging right’ as a replacement income until December. From January onwards, there will be a new bridging right.

The deferment of payment of the company contribution will also be extended until the end of the year 2020. This was already foreseen until 31 October 2020, and has now been extended until 31 December.

Additional support comes in the form of repayment plans for self-employed workers who have been granted a deferment of social security contributions, while retaining the right to reimbursement of health care until 31 December 2021.

For vulnerable groups
The existing support measures for the most vulnerable people in society are also being both extended and expanded, and a Task Force for Vulnerable Groups will be created.

This task force will develop specific support measures, for which a €75 million budget has been earmarked.

A complete overview of all the support measures can be found here (in Dutch) and here (in French).

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times