FISCAL SUPPORT PROGRAM COMBATING THE EFFECTS OF COVID-19 By Ministry of Finance

THIS IS AN UNOFFICIAL TRANSLATION produced internally by the Association, from the formal communique in Greek.

On Sunday March 15th, the Ministry of Finance announced measures to protect businesses, employees and risk groups. A summary of the plan is detailed below:

A- SUPPORT OF THE PROTECTION NETWORK OF EMPLOYEES AND VULNERABLE GROUPS

1) “Special Leave”
This is provided to parents working in the Private Sector for the case of children up to 15 y.o. due to the temporary closure of both public and private schools. For this special leave which could potentially last for 4 weeks and in which public holidays are not included an allowance will be provided as follows:

For a parent with Salary upto Euro 2500 – On the first 1000 Euro a special leave allowance of 60% will be provided. For the next Euro1000 a special leave allowance of 40% of the salary. In the case of single-parent families proportion is differentiated to 70% and 50% equivalently.
a) The special leave is provided to one of the two parents and if one parent receives the aforementioned special leave, the other parent cannot do so at the same time. In addition, if one parent is working/receiving unemployment benefit payments/is part of the plan to suspend operations and the other parent is not, the working parent is not entitled to it unless the non-working parent is ill with COVID-19, is under hospitalization, has disabilities or is under compulsory quarantine.
b) The aforementioned special leave will be provided for the care of children if the nature of work does not allow teleworking, working from home or flexible working hours and if there is no internal support. The leave will be given after consultation with the employer, when an application form is submitted.
c) The mentioned special leave is provided to parents with children with disabilities provided that they do not already receive a disability care allowance.
d) The special leave period will be considered as a period of simulated insurance.
e) For the public sector, where employees need to be present as decided by the relevant ministers but have to stay at home to look after their children, they will have to consult with their supervisor to take the necessary steps for their replacement.

2) Temporary Cessation of Business
For enterprises which have to cease operating due to the mandatory closure regulation and enterprises which suffer a reduction in turnover of over 25% a Suspension Plan will be implemented to avoid mass lay-offs and concurrently employees will receive Unemployment Allowance for as long as the enterprise operations will be suspended.

3) Plan to support SMEs up to 10mln Euro
For enterprises employing up to 5 people, under the condition that they maintain their staff at work and have suffered turnover reduction of more than 25%. The plan foresees a 70% salary allowance. The conditions and protective safeguards will be announced.

4) Remuneration Plan for persons working in the Afternoon Classes Programs of the Ministry of Education
Allowance is provided, equivalent to full pay, to approximately 5000 persons working in the evening and evening programs of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport and Youth (Music Schools, Sports Schools, State Institutes of Education, Training Institutes, Education Institutions, Education Institutions, and Evening Technical School Programs and the “School and Social Inclusion Actions” Program) and other similar service purchase programs of the Ministry of Education.

5) Payment of “Sickness Benefit” to the average amount of Euro 800/month to:
i) Employees facing special health issues and falling into the categories as prepared by the Ministry of Health who will need to be away from work to protect their health. Provision of certificate from their personal physician is mandatory.
ii) Incidents of Compulsory Leave from Work for persons under directions from Cyprus Authorities (Category 1 – compulsory quarantine under medical surveillance) and (Category 2 – self-quarantine with phone surveillance) under the condition that the confined employees posses a certificate that is issued by the Ministry of Health.
iii) Persons over the age of 63 up to the age of 65 who do not receive statutory retirement pension and continue to work and fall into Category 1 and 2 of the Ministry of Health, provided that restricted employees hold a certificate issued by the Ministry Health.
iv) And For the purpose of assisting self-employed workers, sickness benefit will be paid as for employees on the fourth day.

6) Extension of the time period for lodging complaints for self-employed persons for one month until 30 April 2020 (expires 31 March 2020)

7) Creation of mobile workstations to serve the elderly and vulnerable groups so that they can be supplied with the goods they need. Voluntary Organizations and Enterprises will be called to action to help in achieving this goal.

The payment of these benefits will be carried out through simplified and concise procedures.

B- SUPPORT OF THE GOVERNMENT HEALTH SYSTEM
8) Provision to strengthen the health sector with € 100m to fight the pandemic if needed, which will cover, inter alia:

• Employment of additional medical, nursing and support staff for a more effective and immediate response to the work they are called upon to do.
• Enhancement in equipment and logistics
• Strengthening the Institute of Neurology & Genetics in both human resources and logistics
• Strengthening the Ambulance Center
• Strengthening Service Number 1420

9) Non-Payment of the additional levy on GSEY scheduled for 31/3/2020 for two months, by employers, employees and the state, to strengthen the health sector in the fight against the virus and not to affect the incomes of employees and businesses. It is noted that the timetable for the implementation of Phase 2 of the GESY is not affected. In case of increased needs for the implementation of Phase 2 of the GHG will be covered by the state.

C- BUSINESS SUPPORT, ENHANCING LIQUIDITY AND STIMULATING INTERNAL CONSUMPTION
10) Temporary suspension for two months of the obligation to pay VAT on to improve business liquidity.
It relates to companies whose turnover was not more than € 1m according to tax declarations submitted in 2019 and companies whose turnover decreased by more than 25%, without the imposition of any charges. It is noted that arrangements will be made so that the debts will be paid progressively until November 11, 2020. This concerns enterprises.
This measure is deemed to increase the liquidity of businesses during the period in which they are expected to face liquidity problems.

11) Provisional reduction of VAT from 19% to 17% for a period of two months and from 9% to 7% for a period of three and a half months, as soon as the relevant legislation has been adopted to enhance the purchasing power of citizens and stimulate consumption.

12) For as long as the emergency continues there will be special arrangements for enterprises that have enrolled in the Scheme of Overdue Debts (Σχεδιο Ληξιπρόθεσμων Οφειλών).

13) Overseas Student Residence Allowance: A € 750 allowance is provided to cover the costs of students attending overseas universities who will not return to Cyprus during the Easter holiday.

14) Extension for two months of the Tax Return Submission Obligation for those who were required to do so by 31.3.2020. (new deadline 31.5.2020)

15) Suspension of the requirement to hold guarantees under public and private contracts for the supply of services or products that will be delayed by the crisis. The measure is already on the road to implementation.

16) Support for Tourism Recovery. Additional € 11m of appropriations for the implementation of tourism support actions to Cyprus between June and September 2020, in cooperation with Airlines and Travel Organizers, as well as actions to enhance the attraction of tourists during the period October 2020 – March 2021.

17) Banking sector: The ECB has already considered measures to support bank lending. Under the new measures, Cypriot financial institutions will be able to obtain liquidity from the Eurosystem on substantially favorable terms. The measures decided by the ECB concern, inter alia, the release of capital stocks, which for the Cyprus systemic banks are estimated by the CBC in excess of € 1.3 billion. In addition, the Central Bank of Cyprus is considering further local measures which will be announced by the Governor of the Central Bank shortly thereafter.

D- OTHER MEASURES TO PROTECT CITIZENS

18) Introducing Upper Limits in the prices of Personal Hygiene Products (masks, antiseptics, antibacterial liquids, soaps, etc.) to counter the effects of profiteering.

19) Necessary Personnel in the Public Service:

The public service and the broader public sector and education service providers for the coming month, starting Tuesday 17/03/2020, will be working on:

i. where possible from their home

ii. with emergency personnel and emergency services
Essential services are excluded from the above regulation. The responsible Ministers will determine the needs of their Ministry and their Departments for proper planning of work.

Concerning the Education Sector, the Minister of Education and Culture has been authorized to develop a program for addressing educational needs for as long as the public schools are closed and is intended to address part of the curriculum through the use of technology.

Notwithstanding the above and with a view to the timely and effective implementation of the measures announced, public service providers, the wider public sector and the Educational Service will be required if they are not in a full-time job or working from home, if so called to provide their services in other areas as needed.

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