Less than two weeks after the second phase of the relaxation of lockdown measures, Luxembourg’s government is looking to help relaunch the economy. Prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP) said at a press conference on Wednesday lunchtime that the cabinet had taken a series of decisions that will help boost the economy and help those businesses that have suffered most during the crisis. Full details will be announced by minister for the economy Franz Fayot and minister for small- and medium-size enterprises Lex Delles on Friday.
But the prime minister did say that an additional aid package of between €700 and 800 million has been agreed. New measures will include a special fund for businesses that had to close because of social distancing regulations--those in the Horesca sector, fitness clubs and so forth. They will receive grants of €1,250 for each employee and €200 for each staff member that has been on the partial unemployment scheme. Bettel also said that as of 1 June applying for the partial unemployment scheme would be simplified and businesses will be able to apply online.
Shops with fewer than 200 employees will also be able to get a tax-free subsidy of €1,000 per staff member for June, €750 per employee for July, and €500 August per employee up to a ceiling of €50,000. As for rent, which has been a sticking point for many businesses, Bettel said that proprietors will be allowed to write off in taxes twice the amount they lose in income if they reduce or suspend rents. It is in everyone’s interest to keep tenants in their premises, Bettel said.
Private landlords will also not be permitted to raise rents before the end of the calendar year, Bettel announced. In addition to the extra support for low income households announced by the family ministry earlier in the day, Bettel also said that, in an effort to boost the tourism industry, cross-border workers would each get a voucher from the government for an overnight stay in a Luxembourg hotel or other leisure accommodation. There is no point opening the economy if nobody buys anything, Bettel said. He explained that maintaining purchasing power was vital for the economy.
The government also wants to restart the economy with sustainability in mind. The prime minister said he wants the EU’s much-vaunted Green Deal to kick start in the grand duchy as soon as possible. New incentives to get people using so-called “soft mobility” options will be introduced and subsidies for home owners converting to green energy will also be increased.
Bettel also said he has scheduled a meeting with religious leaders for Friday to discuss the re-opening of places of worship, which he said will require the enforcement of health and social distancing rules. He hopes that “white smoke” would be sent up after the meeting to signal the go-ahead.
At the same press conference, health minister Paulette Lenert (LSAP) said that the advance medical centres in Grevenmacher and Ettelbruck would be closing on 29 May. The centre at the Rockhal in Esch will remain open until 15 June and the one in Luxexpo in Luxembourg-Kirchberg will also close but will remain fully equipped so that it could be reopened immediately if required to handle a second wave of the pandemic.