State Aid: COVID-19 tracker – Measures available to weather the storm
COVID-19 has already had a material impact on companies and their business. Flights have been cancelled, restaurants are closed, and people are no longer using public transport. The European Commission has recognised the economic consequences of the pandemic and the measures being taken to contain it and indicated that it will use all tools at its disposal to make sure that "the European economy weathers this storm".
As the situation develops, the European Commission and the Dutch government are continually assessing, adding to or amending State Aid measures, as necessary. Our COVID-19 State Aid Tracker provides you with the latest updates on State Aid measures as they become available.
Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions regarding any of these developments.
24 September 2021
Financial Assistance for Fixed Expenses Nighttime Closure announced
On 30 August 2021, the Dutch government announced that several support measures, including the TVL, will be discontinued from Q4 2021 onwards (see our update of 30 August 2021). However, some COVID-19 measures are still in place and nightclubs and bars still have to be closed between 0:00h and 6:00h. To support these nightclubs and bars, the Dutch government announced the Financial Assistance for Fixed Expenses Nighttime Closure (VLN) for Q4 2021.
The aforementioned nightclubs and bars are eligible for VLN when their loss of turnover – compared to Q4 2019 – is more than 50%. Another condition is that these nightclubs and bars also received TVL in Q2 and Q3 of 2021. The subsidy percentage for VLN will be 50-85% and the maximum subsidy will be EUR 250.000. The expected total costs for the VLN are approximately EUR 180 million, but this is strongly dependent on whether the COVID-19 measures will continue to be necessary.
The VLN will fall under the Temporary Framework set out by the European Commission. Hence, the aid ceiling of the Temporary Framework (a maximum of EUR 1,8 million received over the period March 2020 - 31 December 2021) applies to the VLN. Nightclubs and bars that have reached this aid ceiling are, as a consequence, not eligible for VLN.
Whether VLN-aid can be granted under the Temporary Framework is, however, still uncertain. The VLN-aid can only come into effect if the European Commission allows aid concerning Q4 2021 to be paid out in 2022 under the Temporary Framework. More clarity on this topic is expected in October 2021.
30 August 2021
Emergency Package for Jobs and the Economy not extended beyond 1 October 2021
On 30 August, the Dutch government announced that it will not extend its Emergency Package for Jobs and the Economy beyond 1 October 2021. This means that, from Q4 2021 onwards, the following measures will be discontinued:
- Financial Assistance to SME's for Fixed Expenses (TVL)
- Emergency Bridge Fund for Employment (NOW)
- Income-support for the self-employed (TOZO)
- Temporary Support Necessary Costs (TONK)
- several tax measures
However, several financial measures will continue beyond Q3 2021. The COVID-19-related financing options KKC, BMKB-C, GO-C and the Qredits bridge loan will remain in effect until 31 December 2021.
14 July 2021
The fund for cancelled events in the events sector will be expanded from EUR 385 million to EUR 450 million. Professional organizers of events that have been scheduled between 1 July 2021 and 31 December 2021and have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 measures, can request a reimbursement for costs made related to the event from this fund. The maximum grant under this measure has been raised to 100%, up from 80%.
29 June 2021
The Dutch government has changed the conditions for support through the NOW for Q3 of 2021. Companies can now only claim a loss of turnover to a maximum of 80% for NOW support. Therefore, the NOW-subsidy will only reimburse a maximum of 80% of the total salary expenses in Q3 of 2021.
17 June 2021
The European Commission has approved the EUR 385 million fund for cancelled events in the event sector (see also our update of 19 March 2021). This fund is aimed towards professional organizers of events that are scheduled between 1 July 2021 and 31 December 2021, but have been cancelled due to COVID-19 measures. Event organisers can claim reimbursement for costs made related to the event.
28 May 2021
New SME's that started operating between 1 October 2019 and 30 June 2020 can, from 31 May 2021 onwards, also apply for TVL aid. New SME's can do so through a special TVL facility that only applies to Q1 of 2021 and is only open for new SME's that suffered a loss of revenue above 30% in Q1 of 2021 compared to Q3 of 2020. From Q2 onwards, new SME's can apply for aid through the regular TVL.
27 May 2021
Emergency Package for Jobs and the Economy extended for Q3 of 2021
On 27 May, the Dutch government announced it will extend the Emergency Package for Jobs and the Economy for Q3 of 2021. The government has allocated EUR 6 billion for this extension. The extended package touches on the following measures:
- Financial Assistance for Fixed Expenses (TVL)
- The ceiling for subsidized aid under the TVL to non-SME's will be increased to EUR 1,2 million for Q2 of 2021.
- Income-support for the self-employed (Tozo)
The Dutch government grants all self-employed individuals who have taken out a Tozo-loan for work capital a deferral of payment until 31 December 2021. Moreover, the accrual of interest will be stopped during this period. The repayment period for this loan will also be extended from 3,5 to 5 years.
Emergency Bridge Fund for Employment (NOW)
Going forward. received TVL aid will no longer be regarded as revenue when calculating the NOW aid an applicant can receive.
Businesses will have to start repaying their tax debt from 1 October 2022 onwards and, after which they will have 5 years to repay this debt.
21 May 2021
As part of the Time Out Arrangement (TOA), SME's can now apply for a credit facility (maximum EUR 100.000) from the Dutch government to restart, expand or change their commercial operations (see also our update of 21 January 2021). This credit facility is designed for SME's which are in essence financially healthy, but are restructuring. An important stipulation is, however, that applicants must negotiate a settlement with their creditors as laid down in the act on the confirmation of private restructuring plans (WHOA). The government is making EUR 200 million available for this purpose.
7 May 2021
As we already announced in our update of 21 January 2021, the TVL support for Q1 of 2021 will also be open to non-SME's. To give these companies enough time to hand in their requests for the TVL aid, the deadline for non-SME's for requesting TVL support for Q1 of 2021 has been moved to 10 June 2021.
30 March 2021
The European Commission approved a Dutch loan scheme of €400 million ("Voucherfonds") under the State aid Temporary Framework, to support companies providing package travel and linked travel arrangements in refunding corona vouchers to consumers. Travel organisations have issued vouchers since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020. However, many of these vouchers could not be exchanged due to long-lasting travel restrictions. Now, companies have to start refunding the vouchers in cash, weighing heavily on their debt.
With this loan scheme, the Dutch Government gives loans to "Stichting Garantiefonds Reisgelden" (SGR). The SGR then allows Dutch travel organisations to loan up to 80% of the worth of their issued corona vouchers, with a maximum of €50 million per company. This loan may only be used for the refunding of corona vouchers issued between 12 March and 31 December 2020 under the SGR guarantee scheme. It will not be granted to medium-sized and large companies that were already in financial difficulties on 31 December 2019.
19 March 2021
Fund for cancelled events announced
Today, the Dutch government announced a fund for cancelled events in the events sector worth EUR 385 million. The fund is aimed towards events such as festivals, concerts and sports and business events that have been scheduled between 1 July 2021 and 31 December 2021 and have been or will be cancelled due to COVID-19 measures. When such a cancellation occurs, professional event organizers can claim reimbursement for costs made related to the event. 80% of the received funding will be a grant, whereas 20% shall be a loan.
16 March 2021
The European Commission approved nine intensifications of TVL Q1 on 15 March 2021. These include an increase of the subsidy rate to 85%, a lowering of the fixed expenses threshold and opening up the TVL to large companies. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) is working on the gradual processing of these increases in the TVL scheme. This implementation will go step by step, it is still unknown when all the following intensifications will be active.
- The increase of the subsidy percentage to 85%. This was 50% rising to 70%.
- The lowering of the fixed costs threshold to €1,500 quarterly. This was €3,000.
- The increase of the minimum subsidy amount to €1,500 quarterly. This was €750.
- The opening of the TVL scheme to non-SME's (more than 250 employees).
- Increase of the maximum subsidy amount to €550,000 for SME's and €600,000 for non-SME's. This was the maximum amount of €90,000.
- Increase of stock subsidy closed retail to 21% with increased maximum of €300,000. This was 5.6% with a maximum of €20,160.
- The addition of the one-off surcharge for Cancellation costs Travel Organisations.
- The addition of the surcharge for special costs for agricultural and horticultural businesses.
- The opening of the Event Module for the first quarter of 2021.
In total, an amount of €534 million has been granted so far. 90% of the entrepreneurs received the advance payments within 3 weeks of their application. Application for TVL Q1 2021 is open until at least 30 April 2021. The RVO processes the applications of small entrepreneurs as soon as possible. Larger companies cannot yet apply. For updates on TVL, entrepreneurs can register on the RVO website.
12 March 2021
In Q2, entrepreneurs who had to close their business due to corona measures and therefore have less turnover will receive higher compensation for their fixed costs (TVL). The subsidy percentage is raised from 85% to 100% in Q2. Entrepreneurs are eligible for TVL if their loss of turnover is more than 30%. The TVL scheme for Q2 is expected to open mid-May. For this increase, the Dutch Cabinet allocates €450 million. The Temporary Support Necessary Costs (TONK) is also extended with another €130 million, to support households with a substantial loss of income. Furthermore, the Dutch Cabinet allocates €150 million for the mobility cluster. This scheme is aimed at manufacturing companies, including many SME's. There are still ongoing discussions with the large retail sector about possible solutions for the larger retail chains.
25 February 2021
Increase of maximum aid under the TVL
On 28 January, the European Commission announced that the duration of the Temporary Framework will be extended until 31 December 2021 and that the maximum aid amounts for a number of elements in the Framework will be increased.
The Dutch government decided yesterday to use part of this extra leeway to increase the scope of the TVL for the first and second quarter of 2021. In doing so, the maximum compensation under the TVL for Q1 and Q2 of 2021 is increased from EUR 330.000 to EUR 550.000 for SME's and from EUR 400.000 to EUR 600.000 for non-SME's. The government is working on a separate scheme for large agricultural and horticultural businesses as well. These changes in the TVL will be included in the state-aid notification to the European Commission for the amendment of TVL Q1. Approval by the European Commission is expected mid-March, after which any extra compensation will be paid out by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).
5 February 2021
More than 90.000 entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals have applied for the Financial Assistance for SME's (TVL) for the last quarter of 2020. So far, EUR 1.1 billion of TVL support has been granted for this period. 85% of entrepreneurs received the advance within 3 weeks of application.
The TVL Q4 2020 was open to all SME entrepreneurs who suffered more than 30% loss of sales due to the corona crisis between 1 October and 31 December 2020. Unlike the previous TVL scheme, entrepreneurs who were indirectly affected by the corona cuts, such as suppliers and the transport sector, could also benefit from the compensation scheme. As mentioned in our update on 21 January 2021, the TVL scheme will be extended through the first and second quarters of 2021. Entrepreneurs who were previously able to take advantage of the TVL will be able to apply for the first period of 2021 (TVL Q1 2021) starting mid-February.
3 February 2021
On 3 February, the Dutch government extended support for the trade credit insurance market until 30 June 2021. A total of €12 billion continues to be available to secure credit guarantees. The coronavirus outbreak cause a lack of available trade credit insurance coverage for large swaths of the economy. To prevent this from causing major economic damage, the government decided last year to guarantee these credits (see our update of 25 May 2020). The now extended guarantee scheme prevents insurers from massively lowering or even withdrawing credit limits.
28 January 2021
Extension and expansion of the Temporary Framework
The European Commission has decided to prolong until 31 December 2021 the State aid Temporary Framework adopted on 19 March 2020 to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission has also decided to expand the scope of the Temporary Framework by increasing the ceilings set out in it and by allowing the conversion of certain repayable instruments into direct grants until the end of next year.
With regard to limited amounts of aid granted under the Temporary Framework, the previous ceiling per company is now effectively doubled, at EUR 1,8 million, up from 800.000. This amount applies for the entire duration of the Temporary Framework, i.e. from March 2020 to
31 December 2021.
The Commission will also enable Member States to convert until 31 December 2022 repayable instruments (e.g. guarantees, loans, repayable advances) granted under the Temporary Framework into other forms of aid, such as direct grants, provided the conditions of the Temporary Framework are met.
Finally, taking into account the continued general lack of sufficient private capacity to cover all economically justifiable risks for exports to countries from the list of marketable risk countries, the amendment provides for an extension until 31 December 2021 (currently until 30 June 2021) of the temporary removal of all countries from the list of “marketable risk" countries under the Short-term export-credit insurance Communication.
21 January 2021
On 21 January, the Dutch government extended the Emergency Package for Jobs and the Economy for the first and second quarter of 2021. The government has allocated EUR 7,6 billion for the extension. The extended package touches on the following measures:
- Extension of Financial Assistance to SME's for Fixed Expenses (TVL)
The TVL will now be calculated as 85% of fixed costs related to the loss of turnover above 30%. The maximum of 250 employees will be abandoned, making the scheme open to non-SME's. The maximum compensation is increased from EUR 90.000 to EUR 330.000 for SMEs and EUR 400.000 for non-SME's. In order to provide additional support to small businesses, the minimum subsidy amount is increased to 1.500.
The expansion of the TVL measure is estimated to cost EUR 3.8 billion for the first and second quarter of 2021.
- Subsidy for the closed retail sector
The government is extending and increasing the one-off subsidy for the retail sector. In the first quarter of 2021, the subsidy will amount to a 21% subsidy on the fixed charge percentage in the TVL (previously 5.6%), up to a maximum of EUR 200.000. The expected cost of this measure is EUR 160 million.
- Businesses started in 2020
The Dutch government is introducing a measure for new businesses that started operation between January 1 and June 30 2020. The exact details are still being determined. The reference period for these companies will be the third quarter of 2020.
Businesses that started operation between January 1 and March 15 2020 will be eligible for the regular TVL in the first quarter of 2021. In the second quarter of 2021, these businesses will only be able to make use of the new measure for businesses started in 2020. The government expects to open applications in May. This scheme is expected to cost between EUR 55 - 70 million per quarter.
Start-ups can also make use of the Corona Bridge Loan Programme (COL) up to a maximum of EUR 35.000 per business. A total of EUR 70 million is available for corona bridge loans.
- Extension and changes to the Emergency Bridge Fund for Employment (NOW)
The reimbursement percentage of the NOW is being increased from 80% to 85%. The maximum salary change employers can make remains 10%. Starting 15 February 2021, the NOW subsidy can be applied for with regards to the months of January, February and March.
- Income-support for the self-employed (TOZO)
Starting 1 February 2021, the self-employed can apply for the TOZO measure with one month of retroactive effect. As of April 1, the extended Tozo takes effect. The announced available assets test (Beperkte Vermogenstoets) is scrapped.
- Fund for the Events Sector
The government is working on a guarantee fund for events, so organizers can start planning and setting up festivals. The exact details are still being worked out. There is at least EUR 300 million reserved for this fund.
- Tax measures
The government will extend the period during which businesses can apply for a tax deferral or extension of the deferral until 1 July 2021. Businesses who have not previously applied for a tax deferral or extension can still do so now. For businesses that have already been granted an extension earlier this year, the postponement now automatically applies until 1 July 2021. The date on which businesses will start repaying their tax debts also shifts from 1 July 2021 to 1 October 2021. Businesses will have 36 months to repay this debt.
The government is investigating the design of tax measures for after the crisis that would allow employers to reimburse homeworking expenses. This year, employers can also give such an allowance through the work-related expenses scheme. This scheme is again extended, as last year. In addition, employers may continue to provide untaxed reimbursement of existing fixed travel expenses until 1 April 2021.
The additional tax measures are estimated to cost approximately EUR 900 million.
- Other measures
As part of the Time Out Arrangement (TOA), the government is introducing a credit facility for businesses who want to use the act on the confirmation of private restructuring plans (WHOA). The combination of credit and WHOA will enable businesses to relaunch as soon as the situation improves, thus preserving jobs. The government is making EUR 200 million available for this purpose.
19 January 2021
On 19 January the European Commission announced that it sent the Member States a draft proposal to further extend the scope of the Temporary Framework, as well as to prolong its applicability until 31 December 2021.
In view of the persistence and evolution of the coronavirus outbreak, the Commission is assessing the need to further prolong the Temporary Framework and to continue adjusting its scope to the evolving needs of businesses, while maintaining safeguards to preserve effective competition. The draft proposal takes into account initial feedback received from Member States to a survey launched by the Commission in December 2020 to seek their views on the implementation of the State aid Temporary Framework.
The draft proposal includes the increase of the ceilings for limited amounts of aid granted under the Temporary Framework, as well as a measure enabling Member States to convert the granted repayable instruments (including loans) of up to EUR 800.000 per company into direct grants.
Member States now have the possibility to comment on the Commission's draft proposal.
18 December 2020
On 18 December, the Dutch government announced additional measures to support the economy in light of the more stringent 'lockdown' measures announced 15 December.
Subsidy for the closed retail sector
The lockdown has a severe impact on the now compulsorily closed retail sector. Retailers have replenished their stocks for the holidays. This stock is worth less when reopened, or can no longer be sold at all. Retailers will therefore receive a one-off subsidy. This subsidy reflects the retailer's loss of turnover and is at least 2.8% of the loss of turnover (at a loss of turnover of 30%). The maximum amount of subsidy is EUR 20.160 and the subsidy comes in addition to the Financial Assistance to SME's for Fixed Expenses (TVL). After approval by the European Commission, the subsidy will be paid from the second half of January 2021. The subsidy is exempt from corporate and income tax.
Re-opening of application for NOW 3
The application period for NOW 3 for the months October through December 2020 expired on 13 December. Because of the lockdown – as of 15 December – it is possible to apply for the allowance for labour costs again until 27 December 2020. Employers who had not yet applied for a subsidy over this period, but who do expect a drop in turnover of at least 20%, can still do so now.
Postponement of repayment for TOZO loans (income-support for self-employed individuals)
The government grants all self-employed individuals who have taken out or will take out a loan for working capital through the TOZO a six-month deferral of payment - until 1 July 2021. In addition, the accrual of interest on these loans will be stopped during this period. The repayment period will also be extended by 6 months, from 3 to 3,5 years.
In total, the government will spend EUR 52,8 billion in 2020 and 2021 to combat the corona crisis. On top of this, the government has granted EUR 11,4 billion in tax deferrals, loans and guarantees for these years.
On 9 December the government extended the support and recovery package for jobs and the economy. The government is partially abandoning the planned phasing-out of the support measures. There will be additional relief for companies with high turnover losses, for example because they have been closed down as a result of the renewed and prolonged corona measures. This extension of the support and recovery package will amount to EUR 3,7 billion. This is in addition to the EUR 33,7 billion that the aid and recovery packages have cost so far.
Emergency Bridge Fund for Employment (NOW)
The NOW in Q1 2021 will remain the same as in Q4 2020. By not phasing-out the NOW support, the reimbursement percentage in Q1 2021 will remain the same as the reimbursement percentage in Q4 2020. This means that the maximum reimbursement percentage is 80% instead of 70%. The maximum salary change employers can make remains 10%. Also, the minimum loss of turnover to qualify for the NOW in the second period will not be increased to 30%, but will remain at 20%.
Financial Assistance to SME's for Fixed Expenses (TVL)
The original phasing-out path assumed a minimum loss of turnover of 40% to qualify for the TVL in Q1 2021. The recalibrated phasing-out path assumes the same percentage for Q1 2021 as for Q4 2020, i.e. 30%. As in the fourth quarter of 2020, in the first quarter of 2021 the TVL will be open to all sectors. The TVL will also receive a new subsidy percentage: depending on the loss of turnover, this will be between 50 and 70%. As a result, companies with the largest loss of turnover receive more subsidies.
Income-support for the self-employed (TOZO)
The application process for the TOZO benefit would as of 1 October 2020 include an available assets test (Beperkte Vermogenstoets). In the light of the extra coronavirus related measures, the government no longer finds this condition appropriate. The introduction of the available assets test is therefore postponed to 1 April 2021.
Temporary Support Necessary Costs (TONK)
Through the municipalities, extra help is provided through temporary support for necessary costs if these can no longer be paid due to a drop in income. This measure is aimed at self-employed individuals who see many of their jobs disappear, or employees who lose their income due to quarantine. The government has set aside EUR 130 million for this purpose in the first six months of 2021 and expects to be ready to work with municipalities by 1 February 2021.
The government will extend the period during which businesses can apply for a tax deferral or an extension of the deferral until 1 April 2021. Businesses who have not previously applied for a tax deferral or extension can do so now. For businesses that had already been granted an extension earlier this year, the postponement now applies automatically until 1 April 2021. Five other tax measures will also be extended until that date, such as the zero VAT rate on face masks and the tax break for mortgage obligations. In addition, the government is introducing two new measures. Firstly, a 0% VAT rate on COVID-19 vaccines and test kits will apply until 1 April 2021. Secondly, the government will exempt the hotel and catering industry from income and corporate tax on storage costs and adjustment costs.
Travel Voucher Guarantee
Travel organisations have often issued vouchers as compensation. The government is working with travel guarantee funds on a so-called 'voucher credit facility'. This would ensure that people could redeem the vouchers they received, even if the travel organisation temporarily does not have enough money to cover the costs. The contours of this plan are being worked out in more detail and the government is in talks with sector organisations and the SGR guarantee fund. The final scheme will have to be notified to the European Commission.
All SME businesses who are directly or indirectly affected by the various Government measures to contain the coronavirus in the last quarter of 2020 can apply for the expanded Financial Assistance to SME's for Fixed Expenses (TVL) allowance, from Wednesday 25 November 2020 at noon. This expansion was announced on 27 October. The scheme is now open to all sectors and has been supplemented with a one-off subsidy for compulsorily closed eating and drinking establishments for their stocking and adaptation costs.
Businesses must have at least 30% loss of turnover from October to December 2020 due to the corona crisis. The share of fixed costs must be at least EUR 3.000 euros. A maximum of 50% of that share will be compensated. Depending on the size of the business, the amount of the calculated fixed costs and the loss of turnover, businesses can receive compensation for their fixed costs from October to December 2020 up to a maximum of EUR 90.000. The one-off subsidy for stock and adaptation costs for eating and drinking establishments averages EUR 2.500.
The TVL Q4 2020 can be applied for until 29 January 2021 17:00.
On 27 October the Dutch government updated the Emergency Package 3.0 in light of the "second wave" of coronavirus-related measures impacting businesses. The revival of the coronavirus and the current measures have a major impact on the economy. The government is making extra money available for businesses that have been hit disproportionately hard by the recent measures. For example, hotels, restaurants and cafés will receive a one-off subsidy to compensate for inventory that has been built up and is now unusable. More sectors - including the transport sector - will also be eligible for the Financial Assistance to SME's for Fixed Expenses (TVL). In addition, the government will help the events sector, which often earns a large part of its annual turnover in the summer months.
- Expansion of the Financial Assistance to SME's for Fixed Expenses (TVL)
The TVL measure assisting SME's in covering their fixed costs will temporarily be extended to cover all sectors. EUR 140 million has been reserved for the temporary expansion of the measure. Businesses will be able to submit an application as of mid-November.
- Coronavirus-related financing options (BMKB-C, GO-C, COL and KKC)
In order to continue to support companies in their liquidity needs, it is important to extend the corona guarantee schemes. These measures will be extended until 30 June 2021. The BMKB-C will likely be extended until 31 December 2021.
- Subsidy for inventory and adjustment costs for hotels, restaurants and cafés
Hotels, restaurants and cafés have built up inventory that they can no longer use because of the temporary closure. They have also often made investments to be able to stay open in the winter in a corona-safe way, for example by covering their terrace. In addition to the TVL, the Cabinet provides a one-off subsidy to compensate for these costs, of approximately 2.75 percent of the loss of turnover, an average of EUR 2,500. Businesses can apply for the subsidy from mid-November via the TVL application. EUR 40 million has been reserved for this scheme.
- Events sector
Due to the corona measures, many events, such as music festivals and fairs, did not take place. Businesses and suppliers in the event industry are largely dependent on the summer months for their turnover. This fluctuation in turnover can cause a distorted picture in the calculation of the TVL. The Cabinet will provide a one-off extra compensation based on the TVL compensation for the summer. It is expected that 800 event businesses will receive an average of around EUR 14,000. An amount of EUR 11 million has been reserved for this.
EUR 40 million is reserved for unsubsidised theatre producers to compensate for performances that could not go ahead.
- The Time-Out Arrangement (TOA)
The government wants to support businesses in dire straits in their search for private solutions to avert bankruptcy. In order to prevent the drastic consequences for the people involved as well as for the economy and employment, a soft landing when these companies are permanently or temporarily closed down is important. That is why the Cabinet is working with stakeholders on flanking policies to help entrepreneurs in the implementation of the act on the confirmation of private restructuring plans (WHOA). For entrepreneurs, the WHOA is a complicated and fairly technical law that they will not be able to cope with without support. Moreover, the WHOA does not remove all the bottlenecks that entrepreneurs encounter when temporarily or permanently stopping their business. In the total package of support, the time-out arrangement (TOA), attention is paid to this. The support within the TOA will consist of several elements. Part is already running and part of this flanking policy will be further elaborated. Last month the program "Heavy weather" started at the Chamber of Commerce. This program consists of services for businesses in difficulties, such as referral, advice and a route guide. Next month a platform with practical information will be launched. Businesses will find information on which steps they can already take themselves and how they can be supported in doing so. As of January, the services of the Chamber of Commerce will be expanded with additional support tailored to the WHOA. This will include advice, referral, coaching and a tool that simplifies the creation of agreements.
The European Commission has decided to prolong and extend the scope of the State aid Temporary Framework adopted on 19 March 2020 to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. All sections of the Temporary Framework are prolonged for six months until 30 June 2021, and the section to enable recapitalisation support is prolonged for a further three months until 30 September 2021.
The amendment also introduces a new measure to enable Member States to support companies facing a decline in turnover during the eligible period of at least 30% compared to the same period of 2019 due to the coronavirus outbreak. The support will contribute to a part of the beneficiaries' fixed costs that are not covered by their revenues, up to a maximum amount of €3 million per undertaking. Supporting these companies by contributing to part of their costs on a temporary basis aims at preventing the deterioration of their capital, maintaining their business activity and providing them with a strong platform to recover. This allows more targeted aid to companies that demonstrably need it.
The Commission has also adapted the conditions for recapitalisation measures under the Temporary Framework, in particular for the State's exit from the recapitalisation of enterprises where the State was an existing shareholder prior to the recapitalisation. The amendment allows the State to exit from the equity of such enterprises through an independent valuation, whilst restoring its previous shareholding and maintaining the safeguards to preserve effective competition in the Single Market.
Finally, taking into account the continued general lack of sufficient private capacity to cover all economically justifiable risks for exports to countries from the list of marketable risk countries, the amendment provides for an extension until 30 June 2021 of the temporary removal of all countries from the list of “marketable risk" countries under the Short-term export-credit insurance Communication.
The Dutch government has published the exact parameters of the extension of the Emergency Bridge Fund for Employment announced on 28 August 2020. The parameters reflect the previously announced changes closely, only decreasing the maximum salary change in the second three-month period (January 2021 – March 2021) to 15% (down from 20%). The maximum salary change in the last three-month period (April 2021 – June 2021) will remain 20%. The extended Emergency Bridge Fund is expected to be available starting mid-November.
The extended Emergency Package for Jobs and the Economy that will start on 1 October has received broad support in the House of Representatives. The support and recovery package also includes a social package of €1.4 billion for guidance to work, training, debt relief and youth unemployment. The Senate has yet to agree to the measures.
The Dutch government has updated its Emergency Package for Jobs and the Economy. On 28 August the cabinet introduced the Emergency Package 3.0, for which an additional EUR 11 billion has been budgeted. The updated package touches on the following measures:
- Extension and changes to the Emergency Bridge Fund for Employment (NOW) – The Emergency Bridge Fund for Employment will remain available to businesses for the coming nine months. This long-term extension is meant to provide business with much-needed clarity, stability and time. The extension will be divided into three times three months, throughout which the NOW aid will be decreased step-by-step. For the period October – December the maximum amount of NOW-provided subsidy will remain 80%, decreasing to respectively 70% and 60% for the following two three-month periods. Following 1 January 2021 the condition of minimum anticipated drop in revenue is increased to 30%, up from 20%. The NOW 3.0 provides employers with the opportunity to amend their salary-costs without this affecting their aid. In the first three-month period employers can make a salary-change of maximum 10%, increasing to 20% for the second and third periods. The fixed surcharge for employer's expenses, such as vacation pay and pension contributions, remains 40%.
- Extension of income-support for the self-employed (TOZO) – The income support scheme for self-employed individuals is extended with an additional nine months, now running until 30 June 2021. Municipalities will provide additional services, such as additional training and re-orientation on a changed job market, to self-employed individuals starting 1 January 2021.
- Extension of Financial Assistance to SME's for Fixed Expenses (TVL) - The TVL measure assisting SME's in covering their fixed costs has been renewed, and is increased to EUR 90.000 per company per three months. The measure is to be extended by three times three months, throughout which the TVL will be decreased step-by-step. For the period from October to December, the current condition of at least 30% loss of turnover due to the corona crisis applies. This is then increased to 40% (January to March) and 45% (April to June). A company has to have a minimum of EUR 4.000 in fixed costs. Of these fixed costs, a maximum of 50% is compensated. The minimum compensation is EUR 1.000 and the maximum EUR 90.000.
- Coronavirus-related financing options (BMKB-C, GO-C and KKC) – The additional, extended or more accessible credit facilities and guarantees for sufficient liquidity (BMKB-C, GO-C and KKC) will continue to be available after 1 October 2020.
- Tax measures - Businesses can apply for a tax deferral until 1 October 2020. This means that the deferral expires on 1 January 2021 at the latest. To avoid businesses struggling to repay the tax debt, there will be a period of two years in which to repay the accrued tax debt. The temporary reduction of collection interest to almost zero will be extended until 31 December 2021, so that businesses will be faced with as few extra costs as possible.
The government is also taking new measures aimed at stimulating investment and ultimately economic growth. Public investments in infrastructure worth two billion euros, among other things, will be brought forward. The government is also investing in a national scale-up facility (EUR 150 million) and is earmarking EUR 300 million to be able to participate in a targeted private fund to recapitalise medium and large companies.
The government is also making EUR 150 million available to supplement the fund assets of the Regional Development Agencies (ROMs) so that they can strengthen innovative SMEs through financing. The government has made 255 million euros available for co-financing EU programmes aimed at regional development, innovation, sustainability and digitization.
The European Commission will support 23 new research projects with €128 million in response to the continuing coronavirus pandemic. The funding under Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme, is part of the Commission's €1.4 billion pledge to the Coronavirus Global Response initiative, launched by the Commission in May 2020. The funding will enable researchers to address the pandemic and its consequences by strengthening the industrial capacity to manufacture and deploy readily available solutions, develop medical technologies and digital tools, improve understanding of behavioural and socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, and to learn from large groups of patients (cohorts) across Europe. These research actions complement earlier efforts to develop diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
The European Commission has approved a €77 million Dutch scheme to support providers of general practitioner care, district nursing, mental health care and social support services in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary Framework. The measure will support those health care service providers that are focused on providing at home services to patients that are considered the most affected by the necessary social distancing rules imposed by the Dutch government to limit the spread of the coronavirus (e.g. the elderly, people with frail health and mentally ill patients). The support will take the form of direct grants for the purchase, leasing, licensing and implementation of e-health applications.
The European Commission has prolonged the validity of certain State aid rules which would otherwise expire at the end of 2020. In this context, and to take the effects of the current crisis into due consideration, the Commission, after consulting Member States, has decided to make certain targeted adjustments to the existing rules with a view to mitigate the economic and financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak on companies.
To this end, the Commission has adopted a new Regulation amending the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) and the de minimis Regulation, and a Communication amending seven sets of State aid guidelines and prolonging those which would otherwise expire on 31 December 2020.
Following the approval by the European Commission of the scheme, SME entrepreneurs who are directly affected by the various Cabinet measures to contain the coronavirus can apply for the Tegemoetkoming Vaste Lasten MKB (TVL) from Tuesday 30 June. Eligible businesses receive a tax-free allowance from the Ministry of Economic Affairs to cover their fixed costs. Depending on the size of the company, the level of fixed costs and the drop in turnover (at least 30%), the SME will receive an allowance of up to €50,000, to be used to cover its fixed costs for the next four months. Businesses that were eligible to receive TOGS assistance also qualify for this new scheme. The TOGS assistance is discontinued as of 26 June 2020.
The European Commission has adopted a third amendment to extend the scope of the State aid Temporary Framework adopted on 19 March 2020 to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The Temporary Framework was first amended on 3 April 2020 to increase possibilities for public support to research, testing and production of products relevant to fight the coronavirus outbreak, to protect jobs and to further support the economy. On 8 May 2020, the Commission adopted a second amendment extending the scope of the Temporary Framework to recapitalisation and subordinated debt measures. The new amendment extends the Temporary Framework to enable Member States to provide public support under the Temporary Framework to all micro and small companies, even if they were already in financial difficulty on 31 December 2019.
This will apply, unless such companies are in insolvency proceedings, have received rescue aid that has not been repaid, or are subject to a restructuring plan under State aid rules. Given their limited size and involvement in cross-border transactions, temporary State aid to micro and small companies is less likely to distort competition in the Internal Market than State aid to larger companies.
This amendment also effectively increases the possibilities to support start-up companies, the vast majority of which fall within the micro and small companies cluster, especially innovative ones which may be loss-making in their high-growth phase, which are crucial for the economic recovery of the Union.
The ‘Global Goal: Unite for our Future' pledging summit organised by the European Commission and Global Citizen mobilised €6.15 billion in additional funding to help develop and ensure equitable access to coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments. The money raised will also support economic recovery in the world's most fragile regions and communities.
This amount includes a €4.9 billion pledge by the European Investment Bank, in partnership with the European Commission, and €485 million committed by EU Member States. This brings total pledges under the Coronavirus Global Response pledging marathon, launched by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on 4 May, to €15.9 billion.
The European Commission has approved the Dutch Tegemoetkoming Vaste Lasten MKB (TVL) scheme, with an estimated budget of €1.4 billion, to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was announced by the Dutch government on 28 May.
The Dutch cabinet has published the new NOW scheme containing the conditions of this subsidy from the second emergency package. Employers can apply for the NOW 2.0 from 6 July forward. For further details please see our article on NOW 2.0.
Since June 18, European Union countries can apply for additional funding to transport essential goods, medical teams and patients affected by the coronavirus. This funding can be applied for via the Emergency Support Instrument, which comes in addition to the support that is already available to the countries via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and deliveries of protective equipment through rescEU. An amount of EUR 220 million has been made available.
On 12 June, the European Commission sent to the Member States a draft proposal to further extend the Temporary Framework. Prior to this proposal, the Temporary Framework has already been amended twice (3 April and 8 May 2020).
The Commission is now proposing to further extend the scope for the third time by enabling Member States:
- to support certain micro and small enterprises, including start-ups that were already in difficulty before 31 December 2019, and
- to provide incentives for private investors to participate in coronavirus-related recapitalisation measures.
This amendment will effectively increase the possibilities to support start-up companies, especially innovative ones which may be loss-making in their high-growth phase, which are crucial for the economic recovery of the Union.
Furthermore, the Commission also proposes to adapt the conditions for recapitalisation measures under the Temporary Framework for those cases when private investors contribute to the capital increase of companies together with the State. First, the proposed changes would allow enterprises with an existing State shareholding to raise capital similar to private enterprises, whilst maintaining the same safeguards to preserve effective competition in the Single Market. Second, the proposed changes would encourage capital injections with significant private participation also in private companies, limiting the need for State aid and the risk of competition distortions.
The Dutch government has amended the Emergency Package for Jobs and the Economy 2.0 announced on 20 May, by extending it until 1 October. This extension is applicable to many of the existing measures, such as the NOW, the TOZO and several tax measures.
Furthermore, the additional injection of funding to the COL announced on 20 May is increased to EUR 200 million, up from EUR 150 million.
The Dutch government has also announced a new measure assisting SME's in covering their fixed costs (Tegemoetkoming Vaste Lasten MKB, TVL). SMEs active in the hospitality, recreation, events, fun fairs, music venues and theatre sectors, amongst others, are eligible to receive a tax-free allowance from the Ministry of Economic Affairs to cover their fixed costs. Depending on the size of the company, the level of fixed costs and the drop in turnover (at least 30%), the SME will receive an allowance of up to €50,000, to be used to cover its fixed costs for the next four months. Businesses eligible to receive TOGS assistance also qualify for this new scheme.
The European Commission has approved the Dutch €713 million Small Credits Corona scheme (Klein Krediet Corona or KKC). The support will take the form of guarantees on loans with a nominal loan amount between €10,000 and €50,000. The State guarantee will cover 95% of the loan. The scheme aims at providing liquidity to SMEs affected by the coronavirus outbreak, thus enabling them to continue their activities, start investments and maintain employment. The measure is expected to support 30,000 enterprises. A bridge-loan with a guarantee under the KKC scheme can be applied for through the company's financier. All financiers accredited to grant BMKB-C loans are automatically also accredited to grant KKC loans. The KKC scheme was announced by the Dutch government on 8 May.
The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, the Dutch guarantee scheme to support the trade credit insurance market in face of the coronavirus outbreak. This guarantee scheme was announced by the Dutch government on 7 April. Trade credit insurance protects companies supplying goods and services against the risk of nonpayment by their clients. Given the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the risk of insurers not being willing to issue this insurance has become higher. The Dutch scheme ensures that trade credit insurance continues to be available to all companies, avoiding the need for buyers of goods or services to pay in advance, therefore reducing their immediate liquidity needs. The Commission found that the scheme notified by the Netherlands is compatible with the principles set out in the EU Treaty and is well targeted to remedy a serious disturbance to the Dutch economy. In particular, (i) the trade credit insurers have committed to the Netherlands to maintain their current level of protection in spite of the economic difficulties faced by companies due to the coronavirus outbreak; (ii) the guarantee is limited to only cover trade credit originated until the end of this year; (iii) the scheme is open to all credit insurers in the Netherlands; (iv) the guarantee mechanism ensures risk sharing between the insurers and the State, up to a volume of €1 billion, and provides an additional safety-net to cover up to €12 billion in total if required, and (v) the guarantee fee provides a sufficient remuneration for the Dutch State.
The Dutch government has updated its Emergency Package for Jobs and the Economy. On 20 May the cabinet introduced the Emergency Package 2.0, for which an additional EUR 13 billion has been budgeted. The updated package touches on the following measures:
- New measure: financial assistance to SMEs for fixed expenses - SMEs active in the hospitality, recreation, events, fun fairs, music venues and theatre sectors, amongst others, are eligible to receive - in addition to financial assistance with wage costs (NOW) - a tax-free allowance from the Ministry of Economic Affairs to cover their fixed costs. Depending on the size of the company, the level of fixed costs and the drop in turnover (at least 30%), the SME will receive an allowance of up to EUR 50,000, to be used to cover its fixed costs for the next four months. EUR 1,4 billion has been made available for this scheme. Businesses eligible to receive TOGS assistance also qualify for this new scheme.
- Extension of and changes to the Emergency Bridge Fund for Employment (NOW) - The Emergency Bridge Fund for Employment will remain available to businesses expecting at least a 20% drop in revenue for the months of June, July and August. The fixed surcharge will be increased from 30% to 40%. In this way, NOW contributes to costs other than wage costs. The reference month for the wage bill under NOW 2.0 is March 2020. A company that makes use of NOW is not allowed to distribute profits to shareholders, pay bonuses to the board or management, or buy back its own shares in 2020. For further details please see our article on NOW 2.0.
- Extension of tax measures - The period during which affected businesses can apply for tax deferrals has been extended until 1 September 2020. Penalties for late payment will not be enforced during this period. The late payment interest rate and the recovery interest rate for taxes have been reduced to 0.01% until 1 October 2020. Other tax measures, such as a relaxation of the hours requirement for self-employed persons and the mortgage holiday, will also be extended until 1 September 2020.
- Coronavirus-related financing options (BMKB-C, GO-C, KKC & COL) - The additional, extended or more accessible lending and guarantee schemes for small and medium-sized businesses, start-ups and scale-ups introduced by the first emergency package will continue. The Corona Bridge Loan (COL) programme, designed to improve the liquidity position of innovative companies (start-ups and scale-ups) that do not benefit from bank financing, will receive a second injection of EUR 150 million due to the large number of applications received.
The Dutch government introduces a new measure aimed at providing bridge-loans to SME's in urgent need of liquidity. The Small Credits Corona scheme (Klein Krediet Corona or KKC) was adopted on the initiative of the banks with the backing of the government. Under this scheme, the government will provide a 95% guarantee on bridge loans between EUR 10.000 – 50.000, up to a total of EUR 750 million. To qualify, the company must have been registered with the chamber of commerce before 1 January 2020, have a turnover of over EUR 50.000 and have been sufficiently profitable before the coronacrisis. A bridge-loan with a guarantee under the KKC scheme can be applied for through the company's financier. All financiers accredited to grant BMKB-C loans automatically also are accredited to grant KKC loans.
The European Commission approves the EUR 100 million Dutch State Aid scheme, known as the Corona Bridge Loan (Corona Overbruggingslening or COL) programme, which provides bridge loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that do not benefit from bank financing. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many companies that were previously financed through private equity or venture capital are now in need of a bridge loan, while banks are primarily focused on their existing clients. Under this new scheme, the government will provide funding to non-bank-financed companies through the Regional Development Agencies in the Netherlands. The maximum loan under the scheme is capped at EUR 2 million and, in any event, may not exceed the company’s liquidity needs at the time of grant for the next 18 months. For loans above EUR 250,000, the company’s shareholders should co-finance at least 25% of the loan amount. This measure was first announced by the Dutch government on 7 April.
The European Commission approves the EUR 100 million Dutch State Aid scheme to provide bridge loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that do not benefit from bank financing. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many companies that were previously financed through private equity or venture capital are now in need of a bridge loan, while banks are primarily focused on their existing clients. Under this new scheme, the government will provide funding to non-bank-financed companies through the Regional Development Agencies in the Netherlands. The maximum loan under the scheme is capped at EUR 2 million and, in any event, may not exceed the company’s liquidity needs at the time of grant for the next 18 months. For loans above EUR 250,000, the company’s shareholders should co-finance at least 25% of the loan amount. This measure was first announced by the Dutch government on 7 April.
The European Commission approves the expansion of the GO programme announced by the Dutch government on 7 April (GO-C). The specific coronavirus clause in the programme covers loans granted by banks as from 24 March 2020. The Dutch State will guarantee 90% of new loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and 80% of new loans to large enterprises. Banks are obliged to grant a 6-month moratorium on loan repayments to borrowers before they can invoke the State guarantees on loans provided under the scheme. The agricultural, fisheries and aquacultural sectors are – contrarily to the general GO scheme – eligible to receive a loan under the GO-C clause.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (Landbouw, Natuur en Voedselkwaliteit) announces that it will compensate the ornamental horticulture sector, specific segments of the food horticulture sector, and the potato sector for losses suffered as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. From one day to the next, many companies in these sectors experienced an acute drop in demand due to the disappearance of their export market and the loss of their largest domestic market, the hotel and catering industry.
For the ornamental horticulture sector and specific segments of the food horticulture sector, there will be a EUR 600 million compensation scheme. Potato growers will be compensated based on the volume of deep-frozen potatoes they have in storage. The compensation is intended to cover potatoes that can no longer be processed into chips this season and amounts to 40% of the average market value for the period from September 2019 to February 2020. A total of 50 million euros will be made available for this purpose.
The Commission consults with Member States on further expansion of the Temporary Framework. The Commission now proposes further extending the scope of the Temporary Framework to enable Member States to provide recapitalisation to companies in need. Since such public intervention could have a significant impact on competition in the Single Market, these measures should be used as a last resort. Moreover, they will be subject to clear conditions as regards the Member State's compensation and entry to and exit from the companies concerned, strict governance provisions, and appropriate measures to limit potential distortions of competition.
The Dutch government announces additional aid measures.
- The previously expanded GO programme for state-backed loans to large companies will be further extended, introducing a coronavirus-specific clause (Go-C), to guarantee up to 80% of loans for large companies and 90% for SMEs (with turnover of up to EUR 50 million). The guarantee ceiling was previously 50%. The Dutch government intends to provide guarantees of up to EUR 10 billion in total, up from EUR 1.5 billion. This measure is under notification with the European Commission.
- The government is setting up a fund to provide bridge loans to non-bank-financed companies. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many companies that were previously financed through private equity or venture capital are now in need of a bridge loan, while banks are primarily focused on their existing clients. Since it is difficult for these types of companies to obtain financing, the government is stepping in by providing funding through the Regional Development Agencies. The government has made available a first tranche of EUR 100 million for this purpose. This measure is under notification with the European Commission.
- The premium charged for a BMKB guarantee under the Corona-expansion is lowered from 3.9% to 2%, taking into account the rules on State Aid. The financing of SMEs through the BMKB programme will be made easier for non-bank financiers, which can now be accredited using an expedited procedure. The Dutch government intends to provide guarantees of up to EUR 1.5 billion in total under the BMKB programme (up from EUR 765 million).
- The Dutch government has announced that it is working on a reinsurance scheme for credit insurance. The current crisis forces credit insurance companies to lower credit or withdraw it altogether. This leads to the economy grinding to halt, since companies will no longer be able to supply their purchasers with products. The state guarantee is estimated at EUR 12 billion.
The Emergency Bridge Fund for Employment is implemented. Companies can now request assistance through the portal on the website of the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV).
The European Commission approves a €23 million Dutch scheme to support certain providers of home-based social assistance and healthcare services during the coronavirus outbreak. The aid takes the form of direct grants for the purchase, lease, license and implementation of e-health applications.
The European Commission extends the Temporary Framework to enable Member States to accelerate research, testing and production of coronavirus-relevant products, to protect jobs and to further support the economy during the coronavirus outbreak. The five additional types of measures are:
(i) More support for coronavirus-related research and development: The Commission wishes to incentivize funding to address the current health crisis.
(ii) More support for the construction and upgrading of testing facilities;
(iii) More support for the production of products relevant to tackle the coronavirus outbreak: Governments can provide incentives for companies to invest in testing facilities for products relevant to tackling the coronavirus outbreak, such as vaccines, medical equipment or devices, protective material and disinfectants. Support can include a no-loss guarantee.
(iv) Targeted support in the form of a deferral of tax payments and/or suspension of employer's social security contributions; and
(v) Targeted support in the form of wage subsidies for employees: The purpose of such subsidies is to avoid lay-offs due to the coronavirus crisis in the specific regions or sectors hardest hit by the outbreak.
The Temporary Framework is also updated to expand the possibilities of direct support to a company of up to EUR 800,000 through zero-interest loans, guarantees on loans covering 100% of the risk, and the provision of equity.
The European Commission introduces SURE: Europe-supported short-time work. Under SURE, the Commission will provide loans to Member States to strengthen their short-time work schemes. SURE will provide up to €100 billion in loans to countries that need them in order to ensure that workers receive income and businesses keep their staff. All Member States will be able to make use of this scheme, but it will be of particular importance to those hardest hit.
The European Commission introduces the Coronavirus Response Initiative Plus (CRII+). This package complements CRII by introducing extraordinary flexibility to allow non-utilised support from the European Structural and Investment Funds to be mobilised to the fullest. Flexibility is enhanced through: transfer possibilities across the three cohesion policy funds (the European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund and Cohesion Fund), transfers between the various categories of regions, and more options when it comes to thematic concentration. There will also be the possibility for a 100% EU co-financing rate for cohesion policy programmes for accounting year 2020-2021, allowing Member States to benefit from full EU financing for crisis-related measures. CRII+ also simplifies the procedural steps linked to programme implementation and the use of financial instruments and audit.
The European Commission has decided to temporarily remove all countries from the list of “marketable risk" countries under the Short-term export-credit insurance Communication. The amendment to the Annex to the Short-term export-credit insurance Communication further expands the flexibility on how to demonstrate that certain countries were not-marketable provided in the Temporary Framework of 19 March.
1. European Commission's Temporary State Aid Framework
On 19 March, the Commission adopted a temporary State Aid framework (the "Temporary Framework") to enable Member States to support their economies during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Temporary Framework recognizes that the EU economy as a whole is experiencing a "serious disturbance" which justifies an exemption under the State Aid rules. The main goal of the Temporary Framework is to ensure that sufficient liquidity remains available to companies.
The Temporary Framework provides for five types of aid:
(i) Direct grants, selective tax advantages and advance payments: Member States can set up schemes to grant up to EUR 800,000 per company to address urgent liquidity needs.
(ii) State guarantees for bank loans to companies: Member States can provide state-backed guarantees at favourable rates to ensure that banks continue to extend loans to corporate customers that need them. The guarantees may cover both investment and working capital loans.
(iii) Subsidised public loans to companies: Member States can grant loans at subsidised interest rates to companies to cover immediate working capital and investment needs.
(iv) Safeguards for banks used to channel State aid to the economy: When banks are used to channel financial support to businesses, such aid is considered direct aid to the banks' customers, not to the banks themselves. The Temporary Framework provides guidance on how to ensure minimal distortion of competition between banks.
(v) Short-term export credit insurance: The Temporary Framework introduces additional flexibility on how to demonstrate that certain countries are not-marketable risks, thereby enabling short-term export credit insurance to be provided by the government, where needed. The Commission has temporarily removed all countries from the list of "marketable risk" countries under the Short-term Export Credit Communication.
The aid measures mentioned under point (i) may be combined with those described under points (ii), (iii) or (v). However, subsidised public loans (iii) and State guarantees (ii) are mutually exclusive.
The Temporary Framework supplements the many other possibilities already available to Member States under the existing EU State Aid rules. The Temporary Framework will be in place until the end of 2020, with the possibility of an extension should this prove necessary. The full text of the Temporary Framework as well as the requirements state aid measures must meet in order to fall under the framework can be found here.
On 27 March, the European Commission announced that it had sent to the Member States a draft proposal to further extend the Temporary Framework, with additional support possibilities for the five types of aid measures mentioned above. The Commission aims to have the amended Temporary Framework in place this week. The extension is intended to provide targeted support to save jobs in sectors and regions that are particularly hard hit by the outbreak.
The five additional proposed types of measures are:
(i) More support for coronavirus-related research and development: The Commission wishes to incentivize funding to address the current health crisis.
(ii) More support for the construction and upgrading of testing facilities;
(iii) More support for the production of products relevant to tackle the coronavirus outbreak: Governments can provide incentives for companies to invest in testing facilities for products relevant to tackling the coronavirus outbreak, such as vaccines, medical equipment or devices, protective material and disinfectants. Support can include a no-loss guarantee.
(iv) Targeted support in the form of a deferral of tax payments and/or suspensions of employer's social security contributions; and
(v) Targeted support in the form of wage subsidies for employees: The purpose of such subsidies is to help avoid lay-offs due to the coronavirus crisis in the specific regions or sectors hardest hit by the outbreak.
Measures (i) through (iii) will be available for cross-border cooperation between Member States.
2. Dutch Emergency Package for Jobs and the Economy
On 27 March, the Dutch government released more information about the Dutch measures to help businesses stay afloat during the COVID-19 crisis. An estimated ten to twenty billion euros will be injected into the economy in the coming quarter through what is described as the Emergency Package for Jobs and the Economy.
- All qualifying undertakings in the hardest-hit sectors, such as the hospitality sector and the travel industry, will receive fixed one-time compensation of EUR 4,000 for a period of three months. Effective 30 March, the list of qualifying undertakings has been extended to include additional sectors adversely affected by the government's measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
- The government has replaced the existing reduction in working time scheme (werktijdverkorting) with the Emergency Bridge Fund for Employment. Pursuant to this measure, Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) will cover up to 90% of the employer's salary cost, depending on the decrease in aggregate turnover of the group (20% minimum). To qualify for assistance, employers must guarantee that there will be no involuntary redundancies during a given period and that salaries will continue to be paid. The fund is currently still in the implementation stage.
- The Dutch government has extended measures for all companies through which undertakings can borrow money at favourable rates. This expands the scope of the BMKB (Borgstelling MKB-kredieten) programme for SMEs and the GO programme (Garantie Ondernemingsfinanciering) for larger companies.
- All companies will be able to request a three-month deferral of their tax obligations, at significantly lower interest rates and with a temporary waiver of the penalties for late payment. Furthermore, companies can request that their provisional tax assessment be lowered.
- Finally, the Dutch government has pledged to provide all necessary financing to keep the healthcare system up and running, in order to allow hospitals, doctors, nurses and all others on the frontline to continue their indispensable work and valiant efforts in the fight against COVID-19.
3. State Aid in the event of exceptional occurrences
The current State Aid framework provides for an exemption for measures that aim to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy. The European Commission has established that the situation with respect to COVID-19 qualifies as such a 'serious disturbance'.
The current framework also allows Member States to take State Aid measures to make good damage caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences. Accordingly, if the Dutch government decides to provide relief to businesses suffering from the COVID-19 crisis, it is likely that such measures would be classified as falling under one of these exemptions.
The mere fact that a State Aid measure is covered by an exemption, however, does not mean that the European Commission need not be notified. Before a government can grant financial relief, the individual measure or the scheme must be submitted to and approved by the European Commission.
4. Expedited notification procedure
For State Aid measures requiring notification, the Commission has set up a special mailbox and telephone number which Member States can use to discuss their plans. In addition, the notification procedure for State Aid has been significantly expedited. For example, a Danish government proposal to compensate a large-scale events organiser for the cancellation of several events was approved within 24 hours. Competition Commissioner Vestager has stated that the Commission will work just as quickly with any Member State that wishes to implement arrangements to compensate businesses for damage caused by COVID-19.
5. Freeing up funding: Corona Response Investment Initiative
In order to be able to incentivise their economies, Member States will need funding. Given the limited size of the EU budget, the European Commission has indicated that the main response will need to come from national budgets. On 26 March, the European Parliament accepted a proposal by the Commission to set up the Corona Response Investment Initiative, which directs EUR 37 billion towards healthcare systems, SMEs, labour markets and other vulnerable parts of Member State economies. These funds are to be made available through the relinquishment by the Commission this year of its obligation to request the repayment of pre-financing for structural funds, with an additional EUR 8 billion from the EU budget.
The European Parliament has also accepted a proposal allowing Member States to use the EU Solidarity Fund for public health emergencies. This will make an additional EUR 800 million available to Member States in 2020.
The relief measures financed (partially) by these funds will be implemented by the Member State governments through State Aid programmes, which can be set up quickly thanks to the abovementioned fast-track approval procedure.
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