With the government measures taken to combat the COVID-19 virus being reduced gradually, the current health crisis seems to be getting under control for now (pending an anticipated second wave). However, the social and economic impact of the crisis will continue to exist for a long time, further affecting individuals and companies.
The past three months, the Belgian federal government had already introduced several measures to reduce the negative effects of the COVID-19 crisis as much as possible.
Recently, the Belgian “Core” (backed-up by the 10 parties who are supporting the Belgian federal government) approved a series of measures that originate from the third part of the Federal Plan for Social and Economic Protection.
Measures that were already taken
The first package concerns measures that were already taken by the federal government and that will be extended until 31 August 2020. It mainly (but not exclusively) concerns:
(1) temporary unemployment due to Corona “force majeure”
(2) bridging right for self-employed persons
(3) and the “corona parental leave”
4 specific support measures
Furthermore, in the same spirit, 4 specific support measures have been taken for sectors that find themselves in difficulty, including of course the hotel and catering industry, in order to mitigate the socio-economic impact of a gradual resumption of activity. It concerns:
(1) the extension and improvement of the ‘bridging right’ for self-employed persons until 31 August 2020 (and which is renewable until 31 December 2020),
(2) an extension of the temporary unemployment up to 31 December 2020
(3) lowering of the VAT percentage to 6% (for services in) the catering industry
(4) and an agreement on a partial exemption for the payment of Belgian wage withholding taxes for the next three months. This should also be an incentive for employees, who are currently still temporarily unemployed, to return to work.
Attention was also given to the (the improvement of) purchasing power of the Belgian citizens. The federal government (and the 10 parties) strive to create a positive dynamic, first and foremost for the people, but also for the economic activity of the country. An important measure (that has been agreed) here is a consumption voucher or cheque of EUR 300 aiming to support the sectors that are suffering the most. This voucher can be granted by the employer to its employees for the purchase of goods and services in the catering sector, the cultural sector etc. It was announced that this consumption cheque will be 100% deductible for income tax purposes (in the hands of the employer) and tax-free in the hands of the employees.
There are other measures as well, which are not as such listed in this news flash.
The ten parties have agreed to further negotiate on additional support measures that could complement this first package.
We will follow-up on any further developments in this respect.