Italy approves parental leave, self-employed grants

Italy has rolled out a series of measures to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus, including parental leave, grants for the self-employed, a boost for the hiring of health workers and a provisional suspension of tax payments and social security contributions.

To ease the economic and social effects of the virus, the government approved on Monday (16 March) a decree for an aid package of up to €25 billion ($27.77 billion) for families and companies, which will mobilise additional resources of up to €350 billion.

The package, unveiled by the government early on Tuesday, includes €1.65 billion aimed at boosting the National Emergency Fund and €150 million to pay overtime for health workers.

It also includes funding for 20,000 new hires already approved for the health sector and another €340 million for new beds for intensive care units and pneumology and infectious diseases departments in hospitals.

The package also sets aside €64 million to enable the Italian Military Medical Service to increase medical and nursing staff for a year and the National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at work to be able to provisionally hire 200 specialist doctors and 100 nurses.

There will also be support for workers and businesses, such as a tax-exempt €600 payment to almost five million workers, including the self-employed whose earnings have been affected as a result of the emergency.

The COVID-19 novel coronavirus is spreading through Europe. Apart from the health risk, it is also forcing businesses, as well as EU institutions, to cancel travel and public events and switch to teleworking, in the hope of slowing the epidemic.

Due to the inconveniences faced by parents following the closure of schools and nurseries, the government will provide parental leave of up to 15 days, and cover 50% of salaries for families with children under 15 years of age or with severe disabilities.

The measures also include a provision of €600 to parents and up to €1,000 to national health service and law enforcement personnel for babysitters.

Airlines offering routes under public service obligation rules will be offered compensation for losses incurred as a result of massive cancellations, like in the case of Alitalia, which has been operating under special administration since May 2017.

Under the new measures, companies eligible for Common Agricultural Policy funds will be able to increase the percentage of advances they receive from 50% to 70%.

A fund will also be established in the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies to ensure the continuity of trade for the agricultural, fishing and aquaculture sectors.

Small and medium-sized businesses will get a moratorium on mortgage payments and other short-term maturity loan repayments, while banks will be encouraged to sell non-performing loans by converting deferred tax assets into tax credits for financial and industrial companies in order to facilitate access to credit.

The worst affected sectors will not have to meet their tax obligations and tax relief will be offered to companies that donate sums of money to combat the pandemic.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Monday that although the decree was a powerful one, it would not be sufficient and the country will have to approve another package soon.

The author: Michel DEURINCK

Michel Deurinck, born in Brussels in 1950, started his career in the Belgian civil service, dedicating over 30 years to public service. Upon retirement, he pursued his passion for journalism. Transitioning into this new field, he quickly gained recognition for his insightful reporting on politics and culture. Deurinck's balanced and thoughtful approach to journalism has made him a respected figure in Belgian media.

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