PARIS – The French government on Thursday announced a new € 20 billion aid plan for small businesses and sectors hit hard by the coronavirus crisis as the country is set to enter a second lockdown on Friday amid the outbreak cases.
“This lockdown is a blow to all businesses that will be forced to close,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said at a press conference with Prime Minister Jean Castex and other members of the cabinet.
“We will include an additional 20 billion euros in the end-of-year finance bill to enable us to see the future and anticipate additional difficulties. “
Of this new funding, 6 billion euros will go to the French solidarity fund, which allows 1.6 million SMEs and self-employed to apply for state aid of up to 10,000 euros.
A partial unemployment scheme – which allows companies to reduce the wages and working hours of employees, with the government partly contributing to the difference – will receive 7 billion euros. Another billion euros will support lenders during the recession, and there will also be a billion euros in additional payroll tax exemptions.
The remainder of the financing package will consist of state guaranteed loans and direct loans.
The Mayor said the new measures would allow businesses to borrow until June 2021 instead of January and stagger loan repayments for up to two more years.
He also urged the French to order products online from local businesses like restaurants and bookstores and pick them up nearby, rather than buying from larger international e-commerce sites. The government plans to support this effort through a dedicated digitization plan.
“Only 32% of French SMEs have a website, which is not enough,” said Le Maire. “I invite all our compatriots to adopt a patriotic economic behavior, promoting take-out sales in French stores. “