€80 million more in aid to businesses suffering loss of income

Summary

The government of Flanders has announced another round of subsidies for businesses that lose 60% or more of their revenue over the next two months, as the culture sector launches a crisis cell

Help for fixed expenses

The government of Flanders has announced €80 million in further aid to businesses and organisations hard hit by the coronavirus crisis. “The Flemish government wants to help healthy businesses to get through this crisis,” said minister-president Jan Jambon.

Subsidies are available to businesses, including restaurants and freelancers, that will lose more than 60% of their income in August or September, based on 2019 figures. A similar financial relief package was  available during the lockdown in March and April.

The previous measure saw businesses getting a one-off capital injection of €3,000, while this time funding will be calculated as a percentage of costs. The government will offer subsidies in the amount of half of a business’s ongoing monthly expenses – such as rent, utilities and insurance premiums.

Rather than forcing businesses to fill in complex paperwork to prove their fixed costs, the government has calculated that 15% of a company’s costs are generally fixed. So it will offer businesses that apply for the subsidy 7.5% of their total revenue for the two months, for a maximum of €15,000.

Loans for event sector

Those working a side job will get half as much, as will businesses that are not operating according to normal business hours, compared to the same period in 2019. Business owners must wait until the end of September to apply for the premium, though if they are forced to be closed by coronavirus measure, they can request an immediate advance of €2,000.

The event sector can expect more support: The government will loan businesses the amount of two months’ worth of rent – to a maximum of €35,000 – on the condition that the landlord of the property forgives one month’s rent this summer.

“These are just awful times for the event sector,” said Jambon, recognising that music festivals, concerts and other major summer events requiring stage and sound technicians have all been cancelled. Such businesses that were financially stable before the crisis are threatened with bankruptcy should events continue to be limited into the autumn, as seems likely.

It is apparent that policymakers are unaware of the great efforts the sector has made to deliver corona-proof performances

The culture sector in general, directly linked to the event sector, has been completely shut down by measures taken to control the spread of Covid-19. Several associations – some of which have sprung up recently to represent the sector during the crisis – have announced the formation of a crisis cell.

“It is apparent that policymakers are unaware of the great efforts that the sector has made over the last few weeks and months to deliver corona-proof performances,” said the new cell in a statement. “The ill-considered decisions that followed seriously affected many organisation, artists, freelancers and technicians who saw their livelihoods evaporate.”

The nine organisations that belong to the cell include the Artiesten Coalitie, Corona Taskforce Belgian Event Sector, Live Sector Overleg and State of the Arts. They are asking the government to allow them to stage concerts, open-air theatre and other performances, with the necessary precautions in place.

“We have the expertise, and there is no reason to make these decision over our heads,” read the statement. “We know best what is possible, what we have already done and what we still need to do.”

Photo ©Kristof Van Accom/BELGA