Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet on Wednesday passed a decree containing financial measures worth 55 billion euros (59.6 billion U.S. dollars) to support the economy hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The financial package is worth like two budget maneuvers,” Conte told a press conference after the cabinet meeting.
“We were fully aware the country was waiting for it, and I can give you every assurance that every hour at work has been painful to us because we knew we had to act as quickly as possible,” Conte said.
Originally announced for late April, the decree was delayed due to tensions within coalition partners — Democratic Party (PD) and Five Star Movement (M5S) — over a specific measure to regularize undocumented migrant workers.
Time and efforts were also needed to find the necessary resources to cover all of the measures contained in the over 400-page decree, Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri explained ahead of the cabinet meeting.
The most relevant measure in the package will provide 25.6 billion euros to renew both redundancy payments for employed workers and a financial bonus worth 600 to 1,000 euros for the self-employed in the next months.
Some 5 billion euros in non-refundable funds will be allocated to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 emergency.
Up to 60 percent of rents paid in the last three months by businesses that were forced to stay shut during lockdown will be reimbursed by the state, according to the prime minister.
Other funds will be allocated to help businesses comply with the strict workplace safety protocols required once the lockdown is fully lifted.
The package — dubbed Relaunch Decree — will also provide 3.25 billion euros to the national health system.
It canceled for 2020 a specific tax due by restaurants and bars for the occupation of open-air public spaces, and it overall suspended taxes worth 4 billion euros to firms with a turnover of up to 250 million euros.
Among other measures, it allocated 1.4 billion euros to the public school system in 2020-2021, also providing for the hiring of 16,000 new teachers. Another 1.4 billion euros will go to public universities and research centers, with a plan to hire 4,000 researchers.
On the regularization of migrant workers, the cabinet agreed on providing 6-month work permits to those already living and working in the country and employed in the sectors of agriculture and home care.
Finally, an Emergency Fund for cultural enterprises worth some 210 million euros will be set up for 2020. (1 euro = 1.084 U.S. dollars)