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 a moratorium scheme on 21 March 2020 together with the banking sector and amended it from time to time. Enterprises may benefit from a deferral of payments for a maximum period of 9 months and at the latest until 30 June 2021, without any associated costs or fees.

On 4 February 2021, the Belgian federal government and Febelfin also decided - next to the extension of the credit payment deferrals until 30 June 2021 - to allow enterprises to obtain an additional credit payment deferral until 30 June 2021 if they have already reached the maximum 9-month payment deferral limit and are financially sound.

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 to 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 respect to current credit or tax payments, or social security contributions on 1 September 2020, or had less than 30 days of arrears on its current credits, its tax payments or social security contributions on 30 September 2020; and
  • The enterprise performed its contractual obligations with all banks during the last 12 months prior to 31 August 2020 and is not subject to active credit restructuring prior to 31 August 2020.

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 an 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.

Requests for an extension of credit payment deferrals until 30 June 2021 must be submitted by the end of March 2021 at the latest.

EUR 50 billion Guaranteed credit program

Federal Guarantee (initial scheme)

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.

The Federal Guarantee concerned new credits with a maximum term of 12 months or of indefinite duration that can be terminated within the first 12 months after they have been granted, extended between 1 April 2020 and 31 December 2020 (including credit repaid by 31 December 2020). It is hence no longer possible to apply for the federal guarantee scheme.

As of 1 July 2021 and by 30 June 2023 at the latest, banks can call on the Federal Guarantee. There is no need to provide upfront losses evidence upon application, but ultimately proving the effective losses incurred, taking account of and accelerating the credit and enforcing all other security interests.

Federal Guarantee for SMEs

On 5 June 2020, the Belgian federal government and the banking sector agreed to extend the Federal Guarantee duration for SMEs, which often need longer-term credits. The Federal Guarantee for SMEs is currently in place, and has been extended until 30 June 2021. Of the EUR 50 billion made available by the federal authorities to guarantee corporate credits, EUR 10 billion is now specifically earmarked for SMEs with up to 50 employees. 

Which borrowers are eligible?

Eligible borrowers are companies falling within the scope of the definition of a small company within the meaning of EU State Aid Regulation. Patrimonial enterprises and management enterprises are not qualified as eligible borrowers.

Enterprises excluded under the Federal Guarantee* are also excluded under the Federal Guarantee for SMEs. In addition, the following enterprises are excluded:

  • Enterprises that are subject to collective insolvency proceedings;
  • Enterprises that have received rescue aid (financial support) that has not been reimbursed;
  • Enterprises that have received restructuring aid and are still subject to a restructuring plan;

* 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.

Which credits can be guaranteed?

The Federal Guarantee for SMEs extends to all credits regardless of the form (except leasing, factoring and consumer or residential mortgage credits) that display the following characteristics (not exhaustive). Credits excluded under the Federal Guarantee are also excluded under the Federal Guarantee for SMEs. 

  • Maturity: eligible credits may be extended for a minimum term of 12 months and a maximum term of 5 years, granted by banks from 24 July 2020 to June 2021, including credits that are repaid by 30 June 2021.
  • Subject matter: eligible credits must consist of “new money” (so refinancing of credits extended before 24 July and redrawings under revolvers are excluded from the guarantee scheme).
  • Maximum amount: The maximum guaranteed principal includes all principal amounts owed by a borrower under guaranteed debt, but are limited to the lower of the below-referenced amounts confirmed per group to which a borrower belongs:
    • The amount corresponding to the liquidity needs of the borrower for a 18 months-period as of the expected time of the credit extension (borrower’s justified declaration in writing);
    • Twice the total annual wage cost of the borrower’s last closed financial year; or
    • 25% of the borrower's turnover of the last closed financial year.
  • Belgian activities: Eligible credits may only be used by the borrower to finance activities carried out in Belgium, with the understanding that the guaranteed credit 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:  ‘good practices’ in respect of 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 24 July 2020.
  • The maximum guaranteed interest for such eligible credits amounts to a maximum 2% on an annual basis (360 days) plus a guarantee premium of maximum 50 BPS for the first 36 monthts, i.e. the initial timeframe. For eligible credits between 3 and 5 years, a maximum interest of 2,5 % applies on an annual basis, plus a guarantee premium of maximum 100 BPS.
How does the guarantee scheme work?

It is important to note that unlike the Federal Guarantee (guarantee on each credit institution’s aggregate portfolio of credits), the Federal Guarantee for SMEs is granted on losses that a credit institution incurs on each eligible credit granted.

Pursuant to the Federal Guarantee for SMEs, the guaranteed loss is equal to 80% of the losses incurred by a credit provider on a guaranteed credit. Furthermore, the eligible credits for the SMEs guarantee scheme should not exceed 20% of the allocated envelop of the credit provider.

Banks can call on the Federal Guarantee for SMEs until 30 June 2025. There is no need to provide upfront losses evidence upon application.

It is important to note that banks have the right to obtain intermediate advance payments, which provide a proper estimate of the magnitude of the loss likely to be suffered per guaranteed credit. Furthermore, no proof of such loss is required to request an intermediate advance payment.

If banks fail to request the State guarantee before 30 June 2025, the State guarantee will lapse and banks will pay the advance payments received back to the State within 30 days after receipt of banks’ requests for payment from the Treasury.

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 can be called upon 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 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 memorandum of understanding has been signed on 21 April 2020 by the Belgian State, Credendo, Assuralia and the private credit insurers, to support the Belgian economy by maintaining credit limits granted by private credit insurers to companies located in Belgium through a reinsurance programme, enabling private credit insurers to continue to play their part in spite of the COVID-19 crisis. 

The reinsurance programme relates to trade credits held by policyholders domiciled in Belgium - i.e. both companies incorporated in Belgium and those incorporated outside Belgium but acting through a Belgian subsidiary or branch (insured with a credit insurer actively present in Belgium – either as an insurance company or through a subsidiary or a branch established in Belgium). Under this agreement, the credit insurers work to keep credit limits effectively used in the 12 months preceding 1 March 2020 as intact as possible until 30 June 2021, in order to maintain trade relations and flows.

Region of Flanders

Legal entities: postponement of payment until 30 April 2021 for real estate tax 2020

All assessment notices for real estate tax for assessment year 2020 sent to legal entities can exceptionally be paid by 30 April 2021 at the latest, despite the normal payment period mentioned on the assessment notices.

No interest for late payment will be charged, provided that payment is made by 30 April 2021 at the latest.

Attention: this measure only applies to assessment year 2020. For other assessment years, the payment term stated on the assessment notice remains applicable and interest will continue to be charged if payment is not made on time.

This measure applies to companies that are legal persons. Sole proprietors can request a flexible instalment plan.

Link to the governmental page for additional information

Flemish protection mechanism 5

The Flemish government has decided to grant compensation premiums to enterprises affected by turnover losses. Enterprises with a turnover decrease of at least 60% between 1 February 2021 and 28 February 2021 can submit an application. Furthermore, enterprises that were forced to close between 11 February 2021 and 28 February 2021, as well as suppliers to these closed sectors, can also apply for support for the closure period.

Compensation premiums amount to 10% of the turnover (excluding VAT) during the same reference period in 2020. Self-employed persons in secondary occupations can receive compensation premiums amounting to 5% of their turnover (excluding VAT). For enterprises that were not established on 1 February 2020, the realised turnover of February 2021 is compared with the expected turnover for February 2021 as stated in the financial plan.

The maximum amount of such compensation premium is the following:

  • EUR 7,500 for enterprises with 9 employees or less;
  • EUR 15,000 for enterprises with 10 to 49 employees;
  • EUR 40,000 for enterprises with 50 employees or more.

The minimum amount of the compensation premium is EUR 600. The minimum and maximum compensation premium amounts for closed sectors depend on the number of mandatory closure calendar days.

Applications, can be submitted from 16 March 2021 to 15 April 2021.

Lump sum allowances

Previous measures: 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

Guarantee up to EUR 1,5 million (corona expansion)

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.

This scheme ended on 31 December 2020, and has not been extended.

Guarantee of minimum EUR 1.5 million

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. Companies can apply for a guarantee for all common forms of credits in euros for maximum 6 years and it can cover new and existing loans. The extended Gigarant guarantee will be granted to enterprises without financial difficulties on 31 December 2019 that can grant an employment guarantee.

The maximum principal amount will be determined on the basis of the applicant’s financials.

The loan principal is maximum:

  • the double of the annual wage bill of the beneficiary (including social charges as well as the cost of personnel working on the undertakings’ site but formally in the payroll of subcontractors) for 2019, or for the last year available;
  • for undertakings incorporated on or after 1 January 2019, the maximum loan must not exceed the estimated annual wage bill for the first two years in operation;
  • 25% of total turnover of the beneficiary in 2019; or
  • with appropriate justification and based on a self-certification by the beneficiary of its liquidity needs, the undertaking’s entire liquidity needs from the moment of granting the COVID-19 guarantee for the coming 18 months for SMEs and for the coming 12 months for large enterprises.

The Gigarant COVID-19 guarantee can be combined with the Federal State Guarantee and can be requested until 15 April 2021.

PMV COVID-19 Subordinated Loans

PMV provides a medium-term financial buffer through the granting of subordinated loans with a term of 3 years, ranging between EUR 25,000 and EUR 2,800,000, which can be increased to EUR 4,300,000 if an additional investor intervenes. A distinction has to be made between amounts above and below EUR 800,000. This is in addition to very short-term bridging loans at federal level.

This financial support focuses 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.

PMV COVID-19 Subordinated Loans can be requested until October 2021.

Globalisation mechanism

On 29 January 2021, the Flemish Government approved the Globalisation Mechanism, aiming to financially support companies that suffered from a decrease in turnover due to the COVID-19 crisis between 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020.

Any enterprise with legal personality under private law, and any foreign enterprise with a similar status that has filed its annual accounts for 2019, carried out an economic activity with an active place of business in the Flemish Region on 30 September 2020, and listed in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises, is eligible under this measure.

There are, however, some additional conditions regarding the enterprises’ turnover:

  1. a turnover (excluding VAT) of at least EUR 450,000 between 1 April 2019 and 31 December 2019;
  2. a decrease in turnover (excluding VAT) of at least 60% between 1 April 2020 and 31 December 2020 in comparison to the same period in 2019; and
  3. an accounting loss incurred over the period between 1 April 2020 and 31 December 2020.

For enterprises that have not yet started their activities in the last three quarters of 2019, turnover realised in the period from 1 April to 31 December 2020 is compared to expected turnover of the same period, as stated in the financial plan.

However, the following enterprises are excluded:

  • enterprises in a non-active state as a result of bankruptcy, liquidation, cessation or dissolution;
  • holding enterprises, management enterprises;
  • asset management enterprises (rental and operation of own or leased non-residential property, excluding land);
  • enterprises whose managers are linked as directors or partners to another enterprise that has received the subsidy and to which they provide business services;
  • enterprises that were in financial difficulty (according to European regulations) on 31 December 2019; and
  • credit institutions and financial institutions supervised by the National Bank of Belgium. 

Compensation under the Global Mechanism amounts to 10% of turnover, excluding VAT, between 1 April and 31 December 2019. However, compensations granted by the Flemish government (corona nuisance premium, the corona compensation premium, the corona support premium and the subsidy under the Flemish Protection Mechanism) are deducted from this compensation.

Additionally, this compensation is further limited by the following two thresholds:

  • financial support intensity cannot be higher than 70% (for large and medium undertakings) or 90% (for small undertakings) of uncovered fixed costs observed between 1 April 2020 and 31 December 2020; and
  • compensation will be limited depending on the actual employment figures of the eligible enterprises (including enlarged employment). 

The maximum amount granted under this mechanism can be determined:

1° based on enlarged employment during the last three quarters of 2019 and the decrease in turnover (please see the relevant table below).

Enlarged employment consists of the average of quarterly averages during the last three quarters of 2019 of full-time equivalent employees (consisting of actively working partners, employees of service providers, working students and temporary employees) at the enterprise.

Enlarged employment figures

Turnover decline between 60%-69%

Turnover decline between 70%-89%

Turnover decline more than 90%

1 to 4 employees

EUR 15,000

EUR 30,000

EUR 50,000

5 to 19 employees

EUR 25,000

EUR 50,000

EUR 100,000

20 to 49 employees

EUR 50,000

EUR 100,000

EUR 250,000

50 to 199 employees

EUR 250,000

EUR 500,000

EUR 1,000,000

200 and more employees

EUR 500,000

EUR 1,000,000

EUR 2,000,000

 

or 2° based on the minimum NSSO employment in the last three quarters of 2019, the minimum turnover in the last three quarters of 2019 and the turnover decrease, as follows:

Minimal NSSO-employment

Minimum turnover

Turnover decline between 60%-69%

Turnover decline between 70%-89%

Turnover decline of more than 90%

1 employee

EUR 1,125,000

EUR 25,000

EUR 50,000

EUR 100,000

5 employees

EUR 3,000,000

EUR 50,000

EUR 100,000

EUR 250,000

10 employees

EUR 9,000,000

EUR 250,000

EUR 500,000

EUR 1,000,000

20 employees

EUR 25,000,000

EUR 500,000

EUR 1,000,000

EUR 2,000,000

 

Although the Globalisation Mechanism has been approved by the European Commission on 19 February 2021, it is however not yet possible to apply for it.

Restart loan

The restart loan aims to allow entrepreneurs who need to purchase goods (such as retailers and hotel or restaurant owners) and who are in need of liquidity to apply for a loan to finance such purchases. However, such loan is limited to 25% of recorded purchases of goods in reference year 2019, with a minimum amount of EUR 10,000 and a maximum amount of EUR 750,000.

This restart loan is granted at 1% interest rate with a limited duration at:

  • 24 months for loans up to EUR 50,000; and
  • 36 months for loans above EUR 50,000.

The following enterprises are eligible for the restart loan:

  • self-employed natural persons;
  • enterprises under private law with legal personality;
  • non-profit associations;
  • foreign enterprises with a legal status equivalent to the three previous legal forms;
  • having an operating office in the Flemish Region; and
  • are intrinsically healthy before the crisis (situation at 31/12/2019), meaning that the enterprise must be active, not have been subject to an insolvency procedure, not have any NSSO summons and no outstanding debts with the Fund for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

This mechanism still needs to be approved by the European Commission (notification pending).

Sport Emergency loan

Sport Vlaanderen has decided to grant loans to sports clubs affiliated to a recognised sports federation, sports federations or sports-related legal entities that have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Such entities can apply for loans amounting up to EUR 1 million at 1% interest rate with a duration of up to 9 years.

Eligible borrowers may benefit from a moratorium on these sport emergency loans under certain conditions.

This support mechanism has not been set up yet, however it is expected that it can be available for applications until 31 December 2022. 

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 hospitality (Horeca), events, tourism, retail and recreational organisers. The following measures have been announced:

Lump sum compensatory allowance

No longer available: 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.

Additional compensation premium of EUR 2,000

No longer available: The Brussels government granted a unique premium of EUR 2,000 to businesses that were not obliged to close their doors, but whose activities have fallen sharply as a result of the lockdown measures.

The measure was 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 was not a factor in its entitlement to the EUR 2,000 premium.

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

Proxi Loan

The Brussels government has decided to offer tax credit to lenders who grant subordinated loans to local SME’s under the following conditions: 

  • Fixed terms between 5 or 8 years (choice of parties); 
  • Maximum of EUR 300,000 (all Proxi loans combined) for the borrower each fiscal year in 2020 and 2021, which decreases to EUR 250,000 (all Proxi loans combined) from 2022 onwards;
  • Maximum of EUR 75,000 for the lender per borrower, each fiscal year in 2020 and 2021, which decreases to EUR 50,000 from 2022 onwards. All Proxi loans to different borrowers combined, a lender can provide loans for a maximum of EUR 200,000.
  • Minimum interest rate of 0.875% and maximum of 1.75%; 

This scheme is for SMEs with an economic activity located in Brussels (registered in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises).

Lenders are natural persons granting a Proxi loan outside their commercial or professional activities. Several additional conditions must be met to be a lender (e.g. cannot be borrower's spouse, cannot be employer or shareholder of SME, etc.). Throughout the term of the Proxi Loan, the lender cannot act as a borrower in another Proxi Loan.

Oxygen loan

The Brussels government has decided to grant an Oxygen loan to enterprises financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, under the following conditions:

  • minimum amount of EUR 10,000 and maximum amount of EUR 100,000;
  • maximum term of 7 years including a minimum 12-month capital commitment;
  • interest rate of 1.75%; and
  • aiming to supplement working capital, purchase of stocks, investments, arrears (suppliers, etc.).

Eligible are any enterprises (or self-employed natural persons) registered at the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises before 15 March 2020, with a registered office / place of business in the Brussels Capital Region. Such enterprises must have been financially affected by the COVID-19 crisis and in need of funds to resume its activities. These therefore include self-employed natural persons and enterprises of all legal forms of commercial enterprises.

Furthermore, the Oxygen loan granting is subject to additional specific eligibility criteria related to the activities' duration.

Tetra compensation premium

On 11 March 2021, the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region approved in first reading the decree related to financial support to enterprises in the catering, tourism, culture, event and sport sectors (including their main suppliers) within the framework of the COVID-19 crisis.

Under such scheme, Tetra compensation premiums will be determined based on the number of full-time equivalents (FTE) in enterprises and the decrease in turnover recorded between the last quarters of 2019 and 2020. Enterprises with a decrease in turnover of up to 40% will benefit from a Tetra compensation premium covering 40% loss of turnover between these two periods. A higher Tetra compensation premium will be granted to enterprises with a decrease in turnover of more than 60%.

The Tetra compensation premium will vary depending on sectors, activities and establishment units per enterprise and will be subject to additional conditions.

Regional fund

A new fund (still to be set up) will be endowed with EUR 40 million and it will be managed by finance&invest.brussels. Furthermore, it will take over unsecured loans at reduced rates granted by finance&invest.brussels (mentioned below). The regional fund will have the task of co-investing in enterprises located in Brussels, alongside the federal transformation fund to be set up by the FPIM/SFPI, and potentially other institutional or private investors.

The regional fund aims to financially support enterprises that were not in major financial difficulty before the COVID-19 crisis and that are able to present a new viable business plan.  Such financial support will consist of quasi-equity loans, which will be accessible to Brussels enterprises with at least 5 employees, for amounts between EUR 100,000 and EUR 5,000,000.

Other measures

  • Elimination of the city tax for the first half of 2020;
  • Unsecured loan (quasi equity) between EUR 75,000 and EUR 600,000 with low-interest rates, for viable companies with economic activities in Brussels, experiencing difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and with at least 10 FTE (specific conditions for certain sectors)
  • 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 property tax.

More information

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

Region of Wallonia

Direct intervention in loss of income through a lump-sum compensatory allowance for small businesses and independents

In response to the economic repercussions of COVID-19, the Walloon Government is granting various lump-sum allowances to support businesses and independents suffering from the impact of lockdown measures.

No longer available: The regional government created an extraordinary solidarity fund of EUR 233 million to support SMEs and the self-employed enterprises affected by the pandemic (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 that 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.).

Compensation for other sectors (allowance no. 4)

The Walloon Government has decided to directly intervene in the loss of income for companies that are still suffering the full impact of lockdown measures. Funds that will be mobilised total EUR 53 million.

For whom?

The applicant needs to be active in the form of an SME or be an independent as a primary occupation;

  • Needs to exercise his activity in Wallonia (unit of establishment) before 1 July 2020;
  • Have a turnover in the third quarter of 2020 less than or equal to 40% of the turnover in the third quarter of 2019;
  • Be active in one of the sectors defined as eligible (NACE codes);

To find out more on the conditions, please consult this page.

Deadline for applications

Applications for direct intervention in loss of income must be submitted by 31 January 2021 (included) on the following platform.

If you have questions regarding the application process, please consult this page.

Amount granted in intervention

The amount granted is equal to 30% of sales generated in the third quarter of 2019 and is one-off. This amount is a minimum of EUR 3,000 and is limited to a maximum of:

  • EUR 5,000 if the number of employees is 0
  • EUR 10,000 if the number of employees is greater than 0 and less than 10 ;
  • EUR 20,000 if the number of employees is equal to or greater than 10 and less than 50;
  • EUR 40,000 if the number of employees is equal to or greater than 50.

If a company was established between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020, it receives a lump-sum financial compensation of EUR 3,000.

Compensation regarding “Less essential” sectors (allowance no. 6)

Following the announcement of the closure of certain sectors deemed “less essential” from 2 November 2020 onwards, the Walloon government decided to compensate these businesses for damage suffered.

For whom?

In order to benefit from this financial intervention, you must:

  • Be an SME or an independent on a principal or complementary basis;
  • Exercise your activity in Wallonia (unité d'établissement) before 2 November 2020;
  • Exercise a real activity in one of the sectors defined as eligible (NACE codes);

When should you submit your application?

Applications for assistance in “less essential” sectors (allowance no. 6) must be submitted from 16 December 2020 to 31 January 2021 inclusive on the following platform.

How to apply?

Please consult the following page.

What are the aid amounts?

The amounts of compensation are the following:

  • EUR 2,250 if the number of employees is 0 ;
  • EUR 3,750 if the number of employees is greater than 0 and less than 5;
  • EUR 5,250 if the number of employees is more than 5 and less than 10;
  • EUR 6,750 if the number of employees is equal to or greater than 10.

For companies created in 2020, the amount of the intervention is EUR 2,250.

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 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.

These guarantees are valid for companies that are not in financial difficulty on 31 December 2019, in compliance with the overall cap of outstanding amounts per beneficiary of EUR 1,500,000 for SOWALFIN - SOFINEX for SMEs, EUR 1,500,000 for GELIGAR for large companies and EUR 2,500,000 for SOFINEX in large companies.

In addition, SOGEPA and WALLONIE SANTÉ will be able to supplement the guarantees automatically granted by SOWALFIN and GELIGAR (to healthy companies before the crisis) to reach guarantees of up to EUR 2.5 million per beneficiary. Requests should be addressed to SOWALFIN, SOFINEX or GELIGAR as appropriate.

For turnaround companies, SOGEPA alone 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 at a fixed interest rate of 2%.

"Ricochet Recovery" Loan

The current Ricochet loan combines a guarantee on a bank loan and a subordinated loan at a rate of 0% complementary to the bank's loan. The regional government has adapted it to businesses' needs in the context of the recovery.

The main features of the Ricochet Recovery loan are the following:

  • a duration of maximum 5 year;
  • up to EUR 100,000 (previously EUR 45,000) at a very favourable rate
  • borne 1/2 by banks and 1/2 by SOWALFIN (previously 2/3 by banks and 1/3 by SOWALFIN); 
  • a guarantee from SOWALFIN of maximum 75%; and
  • a capital franchise of 2 years (previously 6 months).

SOWALFIN can now also intervene in conjunction with a bank moratorium of minimum 6 months, by granting an additional subordinated loan of maximum EUR 50,000.

This Ricochet Recovery loan has now been set up and applications can be submitted as of 15 March 2021.

'Coup de Pouce' Loan

The Walloon government decided to offer tax credit to lenders providing local SMEs with a subordinated loan under the following conditions: 

  • Fixed term between 4, 6, 8 or 10 years (parties' choice); 
  • Maximum of EUR 125,000 per lender;
  • Maximum of EUR 250,000 per borrower;
  • Minimum interest rate of 0.875% and maximum of 1.75%.

The scheme is applicable to SMEs with an economic activity located in Wallonia, including self-employed persons, non-profit organisations or a legal entities. Further conditions still apply to each type of borrower. 

The lender has a 30% refund guarantee from the Walloon Region in case of bankruptcy, judicial reorganisation, voluntary dissolution or liquidation of the borrower.

Borrowers can apply for this scheme within 3 months of the loan's grant, in any case no later than 31 December 2022, by sending the required documents to SOWALFIN via the online platform.

A supplementary subordinated loan from SOWALFIN can be obtained in conjunction with the Coup de Pouce loan.

Propulsion Loan

The Walloon Government has launched the Propulsion Loan, a new loan of up to EUR 1 million in conjunction with a bank loan of the same amount.

The Propulsion Loan is a bank co-financing mechanism for Walloon enterprises (mainly SMEs), to help them rebuild their working capital and present a more solid financial structure.

The mean features of the Propulsion Loan are the following:

  • a subordinated loan in conjunction with a bank loan;
  • for an amount of between EUR 50,000 and EUR 1,000,000;
  • at a single interest rate of 2.5% (except in certain cases);
  • loan with a duration equivalent to the bank loan duration (with a maximum of 10 years); and
  • with no collateral required to obtain the Propulsion loan.

The duration of the Propulsion loan is equivalent to the bank loan duration, but with a grace period of between 6 months and 2 years, during which the capital borrowed should not be repaid.  

This new loan is supported by the European Investment Fund and the Pan-European Guarantee Fund.

Support measures for HORECA (hospitality), bus operators and other specific sectors

Several measures have recently been approved and will soon enter into force, including: 

Compensation for establishments still closed

The Walloon Government has decided to grant a specific compensation to self-employed persons and enterprises that are mainly active in the hotel sector. This compensation will take the form of a lump sum of EUR 1,000 per room.

Compensation for bus operators

Compensations will be equivalent to 5% of the purchase value of immobilised coaches (excluding VAT), provided that a loss of turnover of at least 50% can be demonstrated and proof can be provided that the immobilisation of the vehicle is the result of pandemic related measures. The cap is set at 25 coaches per enterprise.

Indemnity for specific sectors

Compensations will be granted to enterprises in defined sectors (such as travel agencies, photographic activities, exhibition stand design) and demonstrating a decrease in turnover of at least 50% in the first quarter of 2021 in comparison with the same quarter in 2019.

Compensation will cover 15% of turnover corresponding to the first quarter of 2019, with certain limits depending on specific conditions (minimum EUR 5,000 and maximum EUR 50,000).

Compensation for the hotel and catering industry

The Walloon Government has decided to grant compensations between EUR 4,000 to EUR 12,000 for self-employed persons and companies subject to closure and operating within certain NACE-BEL codes.

Several measures have recently been approved and will soon enter into force.  

B2B compensation

Compensations will be granted to SMEs and the self-employed – active in B2B and direct suppliers to enterprises forced to close – with a decrease in turnover of at least 50% over the last three quarters of 2020. Compensation will amount to 15% of turnover of the last three quarters of 2019.

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 cultural, artistic and/or heritage based 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 enterprise's repayment capacity and to confirm that the other support measures (federal, regional, community) have been activated. More information can be found here.

In addition, 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 payment spreads for business water bills.

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 those carried out for safety reasons.

Support measures for the health, social and employment sectors

An extraordinary fund of EUR 115 million has been set up 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) that will have to take on more activities due to COVID-19. 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 the termination thereof, will maintain subsidies (concerns certain health sectors but also socio-professional training, including the service voucher sector);
  • For sectors that will lose receipts from their services' beneficiaries, an additional flat-rate intervention is planned for up to EUR 5,000.

Delays and indulgence in regional procedures

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.

Credit mediator

A credit mediation service for the self-employed and companies that encounter difficulties with their banking institutions will be set up with support from SOWALFIN.

The service aims to help SMEs and self-employed natural persons who:

  • carried out an income-generating activity before the crisis;
  • have a place of business in the Walloon Region; and
  • are experiencing communication difficulties with their financial partners (for e.g. refusal to renew an existing credit line, refusal to grant a new credit).

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.

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