The House of Representatives on Friday approved a package of support measures to help employees, companies and the self-employed weather the crisis unleashed by the coronavirus epidemic.
The package was approved by cabinet and discussed with political parties in depth so as to reflect their input and a number of amendments were made.
The 10 bills came before a brief session of the plenary — with fewer MPs as part of precautions to avoid spreading the virus — and were approved by 20 votes in favour and one against, that of Elam.
The bills freezing loan instalments and providing government guarantees for €2b in loans aiming to inject liquidity into the economy will be discussed by the House Finance Committee tomorrow and will probably go before another session of the House plenary on Sunday.
The bills approved are the €369 m supplementary budgetary bill to cover the support measures for the economy, employees, vulnerable groups and companies affected by the crisis as well as a law authorising the Labour Minister to take the measures needed by the ministry.
Parliament also approved the bills on VAT and tax, and the law that keeps contributions to the General Health System at the current rate.
The House also approved bills authorising police to issue on the spot fines for those breaking stay at home decrees and increasing the penalty for breaking the law on which the decrees are based.
The measures adopted by cabinet amount to a total of €813 m or 3.8% of GDP and aim to support vulnerable groups, businesses, the self-employed, employees, students and the economy in general because of the problems created by the spread of coronavirus, the law says.
According to a report of the Cyprus News Agency the supplementary bill will cover:
€20 m for parents of children up to 15 who must take parental leave because schools have closed. It is up to four weeks. It will be granted in consultation with the employer, after an application is submitted and if the work cannot be done from home or on flexible hours and there is no help at home.
€182 m for the special scheme for companies that have completely or partially been required to suspend operations. Companies forced to close can receive the special unemployment benefit for up to 90% of their employees. The unemployment benefit will be up to 60% of employees’ insured income.
It is clarified that the 10% that are not covered concerns managers and those essential for the admin work.
Moreover companies which have not been required to close but have sustained a loss in turnover of more than 25% also qualify. They can receive the special unemployment benefit for up to 75% of their employees if they have up to 50 employees, and up to 60% if they have more.
The scheme is expected to cover 220,000 salaried employees for the period March 16 to April 12.
€20m for the self-employed affected by the situation. About 40,000 can make use of a special scheme for the period of March 16 to April 12 and they will receive 60% of their insured income with a maximum of €1,000.
€15 m for 20,000 employees who will take special sick leave for those classified as vulnerable by the Health Ministry and must stay home for health reasons. Those subject to quarantine and mandatory self-isolation also qualify as do those aged between 63 and 65 who do not receive a pension and continue to work provided they have a Health Ministry certificate.
Also covered are people of the same age who are high risk and the self employed who fulfil the same criteria. They will receive the special leave allowance from the fourth day.
€100 m to bolster the health system deal with the epidemic and to pay for additional health care professional and equipment, to boost CING, the ambulance service, pay for the quarantine facilities, public awareness campaigns and other urgent measures.
€15m as a special allowance for students who remain abroad over Easter.
€11m for support measures to attract tourists later in the year.