Perspectives

COVID-19 Subsidies and Grants

Aid measures available to businesses

The aid measures granted by Belgian and EU Authorities

Belgian Federal level

Credit payment deferrals

The first leg of the federal measures applies to existing credits. The Federal government introduced on 21 March a moratorium scheme under which enterprises may benefit from a deferral of payments for a maximum period of 6 months and at the latest until 31 October 2020, without any associated costs or fees. This measure applies to principal repayments, and not to interest payments which remain due. Credits concerned by these measures are credits subject to fixed instalments, overdraft facilities or fixed advance payments. Leasing and factoring are excluded from this moratorium, but bilateral agreements between the company and the leasing/factoring company are of course possible.

Public sector entities are excluded from the scope of the moratorium, as well as certain financial sector enterprises (such as credit institutions, investment firms and payment institutions). Otherwise, the regime is open for all enterprises (including small and medium-sized enterprises, self-employed entrepreneurs and non-profit organisations) that cumulatively meet the following 4 conditions:

  • The enterprise experiences payment difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 crisis;
  • The enterprise is permanently established in Belgium;
  • The enterprise was not already in default with regard to current credits or tax payments or social security contributions on 1 February 2020, or had less than 30 days of arrears on its current credits, its tax payments or social security contributions on 29 February 2020; and
  • The enterprise has performed its contractual obligations with all banks during the last 12 months prior to 31 January 2020 and is not subject to active credit restructuring.

This lenient position towards debtors was adopted by the Belgian banking sector federation (Febelfin) based on charters (on corporate credits and mortgage credits) concluded between all members. Companies that do not meet the conditions for extension cannot directly rely on deferral of capital repayments based on this charter, but should seek alternative arrangements with their bank, and may in any event seek forbearance measures in court.

EUR 50 billion Guaranteed credit program

The second leg of the federal measures is a guarantee scheme, set up for the purpose of extending additional financing (new money) to Belgian enterprises.

Which borrowers are eligible?

Eligible borrowers are small and medium enterprises, self-employed persons and non-profit organisations.

”Viable companies” are those which:

  • Have no arrears on 1 February 2020 under any existing credit, taxes or social security contributions; or no more than 30 days in arrears on 29 February 2020 under any existing credit, taxes or social security contributions;
  • Are not subject to “active credit restructuring” (not defined) on 31 January 2020 (i.e. restructuring files as of 1 February are covered); and
  • Are not considered as being “in difficulties” on 31 December 2019 (within the meaning of EU State Aid Regulation).

Public entities, financial counterparties (such as credit institutions, investment firms, payment institutions, electronic money institutions), persons extending credit exclusively or principally for their own account as part of their normal commercial or professional activities, or any of their subsidiaries are excluded from the federal guarantee scheme.

It should be noted that the eligibility criteria are slightly different to those of the moratorium.

Which credits can be guaranteed?

The federal guarantee scheme extends to all credits regardless of the form (except leasing, factoring and consumer or residential mortgage credits) which display the following characteristics (not exhaustive).

  • Maturity: eligible credits may be extended for a maximum term of 12 months, between 1 April 2020 and 30 September 2020 (including credit repaid by 30 September 2020).
  • Subject matter: eligible credits must consist of “new money” (so refinancing of credits extended before 1 April and redrawings under revolvers are excluded from the guarantee scheme, but they may fall under the moratorium – see above).
  • Maximum amount: eligible credits should be extended for an amount equal to the liquidity needs of the borrower for 12 or 18 months (the regulation includes detailed provisions on how to calculate these, and Febelfin provides an online tool to help to determine it) with a cap of EUR 50 million per group (exemptions may apply on a case-by-case basis).
  • Belgian activities: Eligible credits may only be used by the borrower to finance activities carried out in Belgium, it being understood that the guaranteed credit may provide that it can be used for certain foreign activities to the extent that such use is limited to 10% of the guaranteed credit, and such use of the guaranteed credit for qualifying foreign activities is not to the detriment of Belgian activities. If the credit facility does not include this provision, the guaranteed loss has to be reduced by all losses on the credit facility.
  • No Cross-selling: The guaranteed loss of the bank is reduced by all losses on guaranteed credit facilities for which the bank makes the application or the granting of the credit facility conditional upon the conclusion by the borrower, or an associated person, of agreements relating to other products or services.
  • General terms and conditions: Another ground for reduction of all losses on guaranteed credit facilities is when the lender charges the borrower costs that would not have been payable on the basis of the general terms and conditions of the lender as at 29 February 2020.
  • Security package: Credit providers are required to comply with good practice with respect to extending credit and obtaining security interests, on an 'at arm’s length' basis and in conformity with their respective practices (general Terms & Conditions) applicable prior to 1 April 2020
  • The maximum guaranteed interest for such eligible credits amounts to a maximum 1.25% on an annual basis (360 days) plus a guarantee premium of maximum 25 bps for SME’s (defined as such in the Code of Companies and Associations i.e. 25 employees/9M turnover/4.5M balance total) and maximum 50 bps for other companies.
How does the guarantee scheme work?

It is important to note that the government does not guarantee specific credits, but each credit institution's aggregate portfolio of credits. Each bank will be allocated a portion of the total available envelope of EUR 50 billion, in function of their market share. As a matter of principle, all credits falling under the conditions set out above are covered by the guarantee.

However, this principle is mitigated, the idea behind this being that as the guarantee scheme does not limit itself to enterprises affected by the virus outbreak, banks should be able to continue operating on a level-playing field for these credits. In practice, banks may opt to deselect eligible guaranteed credits – considered as out of scope (up to 15% of banks’ allocated envelop), and choose to grant such credits without applying the guarantee scheme (i.e. without regard to limitations on interest rates and with full flexibility on security package).

Losses incurred under such aggregate portfolio of credits will be examined at the end of the guarantee scheme and will be allocated between each relevant credit institution and the federal government as follows:

Tranche of guaranteed losses expressed as % of reference portfolio

Part of guaranteed losses assumed by State

0-3%

0%

3-5%

50%

5-100%

80%

As of 1 July 2021 and by 31 March 2023 at the latest, banks will have to call on the federal guarantee. There is no need to provide upfront losses evidence at the time of application, but ultimately proving the effective losses incurred taking account of accelerating the credit and enforcing all other security interests.

The Federal Guarantee program will be applied as a subsidiary measure, i.e. the State is only held to pay upon confirmation of definitive losses (subsidiary guarantee following enforcement of all other security interests and any other means available to the credit provider to recover debt).

Insurance

The federation of insurance companies (Assuralia) has agreed on a package of measures (automatic premium reduction and premium payment deferral) in favour of vulnerable natural persons and companies to overcome the financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

Additionally, Credendo (the Belgian public ECA) is strengthening its support for Belgian exporting companies – active in Belgium and carrying out international operations (at least 30% of the company's turnover generated in 2019) – by providing a new bridge guarantee, covering maximum 80% of the bank’s risks on bridge loans provided to these companies and up to EUR 10 million per beneficiary. The Credendo bridge guarantee scheme has been approved by the European Commission on 14 May 2020.

Guarantees to be granted under this scheme will be first-demand guarantees – which means that they will be callable without the need to establish a final loss on the loan or on the portfolio, and without the need to first attempt to recover the loan from the borrower or from other collateral – and will cover both the principal amount and the loan interest due during the full maturity period of the loan.

The Credendo bridge guarantee scheme is open to all sectors except government entities and companies that are part of the financial sector. Guarantees under this scheme may be granted from 14 May 2020 until 30 September 2020.

Along with this initiative, a one-billion-euro deal is on the table to prevent credit insurers from cutting back on their activities. It would be a system of reinsurance where the government receives part of the premiums and in return pay for a part of the damage.

Region of Flanders

Corona nuisance premium

Enterprises affected by a complete closure can receive a one-off premium of EUR 4,000. If their business needs to stay closed after 5 April 2020, they can receive further compensation of EUR 160 per day.

For businesses that have to close down in the weekend, there is a one-off premium of EUR 2,000. If their business needs to stay closed after 5 April 2020 they will also receive an additional compensation of EUR 160 per day.

In addition, on 1 April 2020, the Flemish government introduced a Compensation premium of EUR 3,000 for companies that are not obliged to close but suffer from a significant loss of turnover. To benefit from this measure, the company's revenue loss should be at least 60% compared to the same period last year. The reference period is 14 March 2020 to 30 April 2020.

For starters, a turnover decrease of 60% is used compared to the deposited financial plan.

Specific subordinated loans and guarantees

Under the regular loan guarantee schemes, companies may have up to 75% of new financing agreements guaranteed by the Flemish government, in exchange for a one-off premium of 0.5% of the total amount. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the premium is reduced to 0.25% of the total amount. In addition, companies may have a bridging loan for existing non-bank debts guaranteed for up to 12 months instead of 3 months and guarantees for bank debts under existing credit facilities and investment credits not yet covered by the guarantee arrangement.

On 1 April 2020, it was announced that the 2009 statutory Flemish Gigarant guarantee managed by Participatie Maatschappij Vlaanderen (PMV) was increased to EUR 3 billion for granting guarantees on credit of EUR 1.5 million and more. The extended Gigarant guarantee will be granted to enterprises without financial difficulties on 31 December 2019, for maximum 6 years and can cover new and existing loans. The maximum principal amount will be determined on the basis of the applicant's financials. The same financing cannot be covered by both the federal and regional guarantee.

PMV will provide a medium-term financial buffer through the granting of subordinated loans ranging between EUR 25,000 and EUR 2,000,000 and for a total amount of up to EUR 250 million. This is in addition to very short-term bridging loans from the federal level. The focus of this program is on start-up companies and scale-ups, as well as mature companies that have temporarily run into difficulties due to the COVID-19 outbreak and need financial strengthening to recover from the consequences thereof. Applicant companies need to fulfill certain effective employment criteria. Once granted, these subordinated loans will run for a term of several years. This package has not yet been formally approved by the European Commission and is therefore not open for application yet, although applications will only be open until 15 November 2020.

Aid to the tourism sector

A budget of EUR 5 million will be made available for youth tourism and social tourism. In addition, VISITFLANDERS will not collect rent from its youth hostels this year.

More information

More info can be found on the COVID-19 website of the Region of Flanders.

Region of Brussels Capital

On 17 March 2020 the Brussels Government announced support measures totalling EUR 110 million, with a focus on the sectors of horeca, events, tourism, retail and recreational organisers. The following measures have been announced:

Lump sum compensatory allowance

The payment of one-off EUR 4,000 allowance for all businesses obliged to close down following decisions adopted by the National Security Council and operating in the following industries:

  • Catering (NACE code 56);
  • Accommodation (NACE code 55);
  • The activities of travel agencies, tour operators, reservation services and related activities (NACE code 79);
  • Retail trade with the exception of food stores (including night shops), animal feed stores, pharmacies, press outlets, service stations and fuel suppliers;
  • Recreational and sporting activities (NACE code 92 & 93).

The payment of one-off EUR 2,000 allowance for hairdressing salons.

Companies can apply for the premium via the dedicated platform. Applications should be submitted before 1 June 2020.

Additional compensation premium of EUR 2000

The Brussels government will grant a unique premium of EUR 2,000 to businesses that are not obliged to close their doors, but whose activities have fallen sharply as a result of the lockdown measures.

The measure is only intended for small entities (with a maximum of 5 full time employees (“FTEs”). Contrary to the unique premium of EUR 4,000, the sector in which the enterprise is active is not a factor in its entitlement to the EUR 2,000 premium.

The practical modalities to apply for the additional compensation premium will be communicated in the dedicated webpage.

Other measures

  • Elimination of the city tax for the first half of 2020;
  • Financial interventions (for a total of EUR 20 million) in favor of the companies affected by the Coronavirus crisis through the granting of public guarantees on bank loans;
  • Low interest loans to key suppliers in the hotel and catering sector enabling them to offer payment terms to their hotel and catering customers, and for hotel and catering establishments employing more than 50 people;
  • Moratorium on capital repayment of loans granted by Finance&invest to impacted companies on a case-by-case basis;
  • Accelerated or even early processing, commitment and liquidation of expansion aid for the hotel and catering, tourism, events and cultural sectors;
  • Reinforcement of support for companies in difficulty by increasing the allocation to the Centre for Companies in Difficulty.
  • Waiver of the tax on the operation of taxis or cars with driver for the year 2020.
  • The Brussels regional Government announced that two additional months will be granted to pay the property tax.

More information

More info can be found on the COVID-19 website of the Brussels Region.

Region of Wallonia

Lump-sum compensatory allowance

The regional government created an extraordinary solidarity fund of EUR 233 million to support SMEs and the self-employed enterprises affected by the coronavirus crisis (directly and indirectly, and which meet the definition of a micro-enterprise and small enterprise), through lump-sum compensation:

  • EUR 5,000 per company completely closed or stopped as a result of decisions adopted by the National Security Council and operating in the following industries:
    • Catering (NACE code 55)
    • Accommodation (NACE code 56)
    • Travel agency, tour operator, reservation service and related activities (NACE code 79)
    • Retail trade (NACE code 47 - except 47.20, 47.62, 47.73).
    • EUR 2,500 per company which must change its closing days without being closed all week, in application of the decisions of the National Security Council, for the following sectors:
    • Personal services - hairdressers (NACE code 96.021)

Companies have 60 days from closing to submit their application via the new application platform. Payments will take place from April. The allowance will be tax-free and it is possible to combine the allowance with other aid measures (unemployment benefit, bridging entitlement, etc.).

Indirect measures

The payment of principal and interest accrued on loans and financial aid granted by regional agencies SRIW, SOGEPA GROUP, SOWALFIN at the maturity date of 31 March 2020 is suspended. The principal amortisation schedule is automatically extended for an equivalent period.

This measure will be carried out without any additional interest or charges to be borne by the borrowers for all loans with an outstanding amount less (or equal) to EUR 2,5 million. For loans with a higher outstanding amount, the relief from interest will require an individual examination of the file in consultation with the banking and financial partners concerned.

Guarantees

The regional agencies SOWALFIN - SOFINEX – GELIGAR may grant additional guarantees up to :

  • 50 % on existing short-term lines granted by banks initially without guarantee, in order to make it possible to maintain these financial means at the disposal of the companies affected by Covid-19 measures;
  • max. 75% on the increases in short-term lines that would be granted to companies to help them get through this period of disruption.
  • max. 75% on new short-term credit lines to enable companies to benefit from additional cash resources.

For companies in turnaround, SOGEPA can guarantee 75% of a maximum amount of EUR 2.5 million per beneficiary. The file must be submitted directly to SOGEPA.

Urgent support for corporate cash flow

In order to meet the urgent cash flow needs of companies, SOGEPA and Wallonia Santé can grant loans for a maximum amount of EUR 200,000 with a 1-year grace period and a fixed interest rate of 2%.

Cultural enterprises

The Wallonia-Brussels federation (“FWB”) launched an emergency loan to support the cash flows of cultural and creative enterprises, i.e. sectors of activity whose main purpose is the creation, development, production, reproduction, promotion, dissemination or marketing of goods, services and activities with a cultural, artistic and/or heritage content.

This loan would be available for a period of 6 months (possibly renewable for 6 months) for an amount of EUR 20,000 to EUR 100,000 with a fixed interest rate of 2%. An analysis will be carried out by the governmental agency “St'art” in order to verify the repayment capacity of the enterprise and to confirm that the other support measures (federal, regional, community) have been activated. More information can be found here.

In addition, the companies affected by the Covid-19 measures have the possibility of requesting a moratorium on outstanding loans (interest and capital).

Water and electricity bills

Companies facing cash flow problems can request the spreading of the payment of the water bill for businesses.

Regarding the energy sector, appropriate measures will be taken by the distribution network managers to avoid any interruption in the supply of electricity or gas.

During the period in which the Covid-19 measures are in place, new electricity meters will not be installed. All outage procedures will be suspended during this period, except the ones carried out for safety reasons.

Support measures for the health, social and employment sectors

An extraordinary fund of EUR 115 million has been set to help the health, social and employment sectors. The Walloon Government has opted for three aid formulas which will be adapted according to the sectors:

  • The sectors (mainly health and front-line players: hospitals, nursing homes, social sector and disabled people) who will have to take on more activities due to Coronavirus. They will receive an exceptional budget of EUR 75 million;
  • Certain subsidised sectors, which will be faced with a reduction in their activities or even with the cessation of these, will maintain the subsidies (concerns certain health sectors but also socio-professional training, including the service voucher sector);
  • For the sectors which will lose the receipts of the beneficiaries of their services, an additional flat-rate intervention is planned up to EUR 5,000.

Delays and indulgence in regional procedures

A certain flexibility and indulgence will be applied in relation to the existing commitments between companies and the Region of Wallonia within the framework of regional procedures (requests for bonuses, subsidies, etc.). These criteria and commitments may relate to a target in terms of jobs, a deadline or deadline for repaying aid, etc.

The impact of COVID-19 on the company's activities must be demonstrated and each situation will be examined on a case-by-case basis.

To support companies in difficulty

The existing "Entreprise en rebond" scheme can provide expertise and advice on legal, financial and economic matters to companies and self-employed people experiencing difficulties.

More information

More info can be found on the COVID-19 website of the Walloon Region.

EU Commission

Aid for start-ups and SMEs

The European Commission is calling for startups and SMEs with technologies and innovations that could help in treating, testing, monitoring or other aspects of the Coronavirus outbreak to apply urgently to the next round of funding from the European Innovation Council (EIC). With a budget of EUR 164 million, this call is “bottom up”, meaning there are no predefined thematic priorities and applicants with Coronavirus relevant innovations will be evaluated in the same way as other applicants.

Grant only funding is provided (funding rate 70%) of between EUR 0.5 million and EUR 2.5 million. Under the blended finance option, the grant component is limited to EUR 2.5 million combined with an equity component of up to EUR 15 million.

The deadline for applications under the current request for proposals is 17:00 on Friday 20 March 2020. The next deadlines to submit proposals under this grant scheme are 19 May and 7 October 2020.

Flexible state aid rules to enable Member States to support their economy

The European Commission has adopted a Temporary Framework to enable Member States to use the full flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak. Together with many other support measures that can be used by Member States under the existing State aid rules, the Temporary Framework enables Member States to ensure that sufficient liquidity remains available to businesses of all types and to preserve the continuity of economic activity during and after the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Temporary Framework provides for five types of aid:

  1. Direct grants, selective tax advantages and advance payments: Member States will be able to set up schemes to grant up to EUR 800,000 to a company to address its urgent liquidity needs.
  2. State guarantees for loans taken by companies from banks: Member States will be able to provide State guarantees to ensure banks keep providing loans to the customers who need them.
  3. Subsidised public loans to companies: Member States will be able to grant loans with favourable interest rates to companies. These loans can help businesses cover immediate working capital and investment needs.
  4. Safeguards for banks that channel State aid to the real economy: Some Member States plan to build on banks' existing lending capacities, and use them as a channel for support to businesses – in particular to small and medium-sized companies. The Framework makes clear that such aid is considered as direct aid to the banks' customers, not to the banks themselves, and gives guidance on how to ensure minimal distortion of competition between banks.
  5. Short-term export credit insurance: The Framework introduces additional flexibility on how to demonstrate that certain countries are not-marketable risks, thereby enabling short-term export credit insurance to be provided by the State where needed.

Given the limited size of the EU budget, the main response will come from Member States' national budgets. The Temporary Framework will help target support to the economy, while limiting negative consequences to the level playing field in the Single Market. The Temporary Framework therefore includes a number of safeguards.

The Temporary Framework complements the many other possibilities already available to Member States to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, in line with EU State aid rules. On 13 March 2020, the Commission adopted a Communication on a Coordinated economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak setting out these possibilities. For example, Member States can make generally applicable changes in favor of businesses (e.g. deferring taxes, or subsidising short-time work across all sectors), which fall outside State Aid rules. They can also grant compensation to companies for damage suffered due to and directly caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. This can be useful to support particularly impacted sectors, such as transport, tourism, hospitality and retail.

The Framework will be in place until the end of December 2020. With a view to ensuring legal certainty, the Commission will assess before that date if it needs to be extended.

More info about the EU Temporary Framework can be found on the EU Commission’s website.

Did you find this useful?