ATHENS – Greece’s New Democracy government is extending financial aid to workers and businesses hit hard by a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus and said the self-employed would also be helped.
Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said an 800-million euro ($886.51 million) package of aid would be given to 1.7 million workers and that businesses won’t have to pay debts to the state for four months, reported Kathimerini.
He said that would some 800,000 businesses would benefit from the break although the hit to the economy means it will go back into recession just as a recovery from a near decade-long crisis and austerity was beginning to speed.
The businesses won’t have to pay Value Added Tax (VAT) and debts to the state, Staikouras said, as long as they don’t lay off any workers.
He also said private sector workers must be paid their Easter bonus and that the government would pay it to workers who have been suspended or temporarily laid off from their jobs but no details on how the self-employed would be helped were given.
A supplementary budget of 5 billion euros ($5.54 billion) is being added to help deal with the COVID-19 crisis that has seen Greece relatively less affected than other countries after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis moved fast for a lockdown that requires people to stay home except for critical missions such as shopping for food.
Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis told the same news conference that that state will help business pay their loans for April and June with banks hammered by the crisis.
Those who can pay should do so, he said, underlining the importance of maintaining a “culture of payment” to help out as the government is also being financially impacted and there’s been talk that public salaries could be cut if the crisis goes on for months.
Georgiadis said the state will provide 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in guarantees for loans to struggling businesses. “No one will be left behind,” he said.
Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said there’s a need “both a sense of both individual and collective responsibility to prevail so we can emerge from this crisis with the minimum of losses.”
He also announced a 600-euro educational allowance this month for the country’s professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, as well as an 800-euro allowance for May.
Vroutsis said that the government values – as it has proven over time – the contribution of the country’s professional groups, so it will support the six disciplines using every possible means.
The first tranche of 400 euros will start to be paid after April 15, while the first 200 euros will be paid in March.