Maltese gov’t unveils 20-mln-euro COVID-19 support package

Malta’s ailing businesses impacted by COVID-19 will receive an extra 20 million euros (24.1 million U.S. dollars) in state assistance to cover rent and utility costs as well as psychological support to reduce pandemic stress, Prime Minister Robert Abela said Tuesday.

Abela said the direct aid and the package of incentives targeted businesses crippled by the pandemic, especially those that were forced to remain shut for several months.

Abela said the country’s already existing support schemes, such as those covering a percentage of rent costs and refunds on electricity bills, will be topped up with new measures intended to stimulate economic activity as the pandemic wanes.

At a press conference, Abela said that apart from directly supporting businesses, the government also wanted to stimulate economic activity.

Had the government not intervened the way it did over the past months, tens of thousands of people would have lost their jobs, he said.

“We are gradually moving towards normality with the lifting of restrictions. We are doing this cautiously because if we are not careful, whatever we earned can be lost. The prospects for the future look good,” he said.

“We are not only investing in our businesses, we are also investing in our people,” he added.

Enterprise Minister Miriam Dalli explained how the government had injected more than 455 million euros in direct assistance, most of which in the form of a wage supplement up to a maximum of 800 euros per month for every employee. Around 100,000 employees have benefited from the wage subsidy to date.

She said the rent support scheme was being increased by a further 50 percent on the previous scheme, which capped the assistance at 7,500 euros per business. The electricity support scheme was also being extended to cover June, July and August, with the subsidy covering 50 percent of the total electricity bill of those businesses that are still closed due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Moreover, the government will give a one-time cash grant of 1,000 euros to those businesses that will remain closed after May 10, when the pandemic restrictions are scheduled to be lifted further.

As from May 10, restaurants and snack bars will be allowed to reopen but will only be allowed to serve patrons until 5 p.m. and will then have to revert to take-outs and deliveries.

Schemes will also be offered to boost smart and sustainable investment, and entrepreneurs who suffered psychological trauma during the pandemic and those who lost their business during the year will also find free help, Dalli said.

Additionally, cash grants of up to 50,000 euros and 20 percent higher tax credits would also help businesses get in line with the goals outlined in the European Green Deal. Those who had a total of 78 million euros worth of tax credits will have an extra three years to use them, he said. (1 euro = 1.21 U.S. dollar)