October 24, 2021

Taylor Daily Press

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The federal government continues to debate the extension of Corona support measures

The federal government continues to debate the extension of Corona support measures

The advisory panel confirmed Friday that the latest economic restrictions will disappear from October 1. Ballrooms and discos can finally open their doors again with the Covid Safe Ticket. But what about economic support measures, such as temporary unemployment or bridging rights? It usually expires on October 1, although the federal government wants to extend it to a limited extent. Problem: Within the Vivaldi government they cannot reach an agreement.

Pierre-Yves Dermann (PS), as the Employment Minister responsible for temporary unemployment, put a proposal on the table at the beginning of September. without success. And another attempt to get out last Friday did not lead to anything. CD&V and Open Vld are wary of additional treasury costs. Left parties, led by the Socialist Party, want more calm.

Deputy Prime Minister Vincent van Bettieghem announced that Flemish subsidy measures will end at the end of this month, and the reduced 6 per cent value-added tax in the catering industry will also disappear. Regarding temporary unemployment, there is now a gradual consensus that it will last for a while. question in what form.

Now there are two options on the table: either temporary unemployment will be lifted at the end of October or it will remain until the end of this year, but only for specific sectors, such as the travel and events sector. Keeping the system afloat until the end of this year will cost the government 32 million euros. PS insists on this, with advice from social partners on hand. The number of people with temporary unemployment has been steadily declining for several months, yet in July there were still 150,000 people in the system.

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Deadline approaching

A similar debate is emerging regarding the right to bridging, which is the support that self-employed people receive in the event of forced closure or significant loss of income. An extension is coming, but how generous is it? For a year now, the government has automatically doubled these premiums when they close, and now all premiums are back to normal levels. The question is when a self-employed person is still entitled to maintenance. With a turnover loss of 40, 50, or 65 percent? There is still debate about this. Potential costs up to 35 million euros.

While a compromise on these two scales appears possible, it has come to a complete impasse because PS also required the extension of two social scales. Since the beginning of the Corona crisis, unemployment benefits no longer decrease over time, and since the summer of 2020, people on living wages have received, among other things, a monthly installment of 50 euros from Corona. The Socialist Party is convinced that the social impact of the crisis will continue for a while, even if the economic recovery begins. For the CD&V and the Liberals, these were emergency measures that could only be justified when the crisis was still acute.

Several government leaders are urging to finally tie the knot early this week, as the October 1 deadline approaches. Moreover, meetings will be tough at the end of the week: Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo (Open Vld) will be in New York from Wednesday to Saturday for the United Nations General Assembly.

The full discussion of support measures was set against the budget negotiations that had begun gradually. De Croo is already working under the water line with one-to-one contacts with deputy prime ministers. Later this week, the Monitoring Committee, a group of senior civil servants, will publish new figures on the exact size of the budget gap.

There, too, the same social and economic divide divides the government into two parts. Liberals and CD&V urge numbers to be ordered. Foreign Minister Eva de Bleecker (Open Vld) spoke of a $3 billion effort. But PS is afraid of tightening its belt now and wants to see 2022 primarily as a transition year.