COVID-19 Survival Toolkit: The definitive list of support initiatives for Startups & Freelancers in Europe

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The COVID-19 outbreak has effectively changed the world and while we battle with the uncertainty of what is coming in the future and how these changes will affect our businesses and consumer behaviour it is also key to know what is happening right now. Communities, institution, organizations, and governments across Europe are starting initiatives, programs and support efforts that might be crucial to your companies survival during this crisis.

We have seen many startups take action against this pandemic. Their fast-moving, benevolent, and problem-solving nature has seen these small businesses developing solutions that range from medical emergencies to financial tools for affected businesses. They have supported public schools by bringing learning online and even designing data collection platforms to stop the spread of fake news.

But while doing all of this, we found that our startups are also suffering, a lot. In research we conducted within the Talent Garden community found that 40% of respondents when asked about the prediction of business losses, expected at least a 50% loss of revenues and for half of these respondents, the number went as high as 75%. This is why we have created this collection of resources in support of every founder, CEO, small business owner or freelancer. 

Here’s our European list of Government support measures and resources for dealing with, adapting to and restarting after the coronavirus crisis.

 

SPAIN

On the 17th of March, 2020, the Spanish Government allocated 200.000 million euros to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus crisis. This included several economic measurements to support national businesses, with a special focus on Startups and Entrepreneurs.

Some ad hoc funds have been approved to support those that have been deeply impacted by this crisis. The most relevant ones:

  • 100.000 million euros to prevent companies from running out of cash flow.
  • Special 400 million euros ICO fund (Instituto de Crédito Oficial) to support companies within the tourism, transportation and hospitality industry.
  • Creation of a special 100.000 million euros ICO fund to guarantee loans to SMEs and self-employees.

 

Government Grants & Loans

  • Termination of activity: Self-employees that experience a reduction of their incomes of 75% or more could perceive compensation for the lack of activity. The amount that they’d perceive is the result of the average monthly wage for the last six months. Taking into account that the majority of self-employees declare the minimum wage, this compensation will be around 660€/month. Learn more
  • Pension plans: self-employees and entrepreneurs who were forced to close their businesses can access the rescue of their pension plans.
  • Mortgages: Postponement on the payment for up to 3 months of the regular residence mortgage for self-employees and entrepreneurs who are in a situation of economic vulnerability.
  • Social Electricity Bonus: For those self-employees that were forced to stop their activity or have suffered a 75% drop off on their incomes. They can suspend the payment of gas and electricity invoices for 6 months
  • Self-employees infected by Coronavirus: will be considered as a workplace accident. Hence, they may receive compensation for sick leave. This compensation for a self-employee who declares the minimum base is 23.61 euros/day

 

Tax Relief 

  • Exemption of 100% Social Security contributions for SMEs that maintain employment, and 75% for the rest of the companies.
  • To avoid potential treasury struggle for self-employees and SMEs, the Government established up to 30.000 euros deferrals for the next 6 months in the payment of specific taxes: IRPF, IVA and Sociedades to SMEs and self employees with a turnover under 6 million euros/year.
  • Postponements approved
    • Self-employees can postpone the debts they had with Social Security. Those payments that needed to be made between April and June can be postponed at 0.5% interest.
    • Six month postponement of all obligations to Social Security for May, June and July for both self-employees and entrepreneurs (no interests or extra charges applied).

 

Business Continuity Planning

The Spanish Government has announced a list of guarantees they will cover 80% of the risks associated with loans that banks grant to the self-employed and SMEs. It is a 10.000 million euros fund. Freelancers and entrepreneurs in need should go to their bank to request this financing.

Other measures have been applied in different regions, you can read them all here.

 

ITALY

Government Grants & Loans

On April 6th, the Conte government in Italy decided to allocate 400 billion euros for the so-called liquidity decree that aims to give further support to businesses.

Central guarantee fund for SMEs
First of all, various taxes which would fall between April and May were suspended. In addition, new loans are provided to businesses, which will take place through loans disbursed in normal financial channels, but with the particularity that the State will offer a guarantee that everything will happen in a “fast, expeditious, safe” way.

For this reason, there is the Central Guarantee Fund, fueled by national and European resources, which offers public coverage of loans granted by banks, leasing companies and financial intermediaries. 

How it will work:

  • 100% guarantee on loans up to 25k euros, without credit assessment;
  • 90% guarantee from 25k to 800k euros with credit rating; 100% if the Confidi, the Italian consortium that provides guarantees to companies precisely to facilitate access to finance, also intervene;
  • 90% guarantee from 800 thousand to 5 million euros, with credit assessment.

SACE for corporates
For large companies, on the other hand, the guarantee of SACE intervenes, which belongs to Cassa Depositi e Prestiti. The guarantees are granted through SACE in favour of banks that provide financing to businesses of all sizes. In particular, the guarantee will cover between 70% and 90% of the amount financed, depending on the size of the company.

 

Tax Relief

Suspension of VAT and withholding tax payment obligations extended to other persons operating in specific business sectors financially affected by the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak and for small (less than EUR 2 million revenues in 2019) businesses and self-employed workers.

Business continuity planning

The Italian Government issued a new “Cura Italia” Decree which provides the following emergency measures to assist employers to maintain staff:

  • Increased possibility of using ordinary social programs (CIGO and Ordinary allowance), simplifying the procedure and the timing of the consultation with trade unions, and increasing the number of targeted workers.
  • For a 60 day period (from 17-Mar-20), the decree prohibits staff dismissal for objectively justifiable reasons and likely will also mean that it is not possible to initiate collective dismissal procedures for companies with more than 15 employees.
  • Self-employed employees (eg: those with a VAT number) can receive a €600 allowance from the government for the month of March.
  • Employed and self-employed employees can request extra parental leave for up to 15 working days, receiving 50% of their base salary from the government instead of from the employer. Additionally, parents with children between 12 and 16 years old can abstain from work for the entire schools’ closure period, not receiving a salary but with the right to keep their job.
  • Employees (up to €40k gross yearly salary) not working remotely (not agile/smart working) are entitled an extra €100 for each day worked at the employer’s premises. This extra payment will be paid by the government. 

 

AUSTRIA

On March 18th, 2020, the Austrian Government announced an aid package of 38 billion euros, to mitigate the damage of the Coronavirus in the economy with the main goal to save as many jobs as possible – “Whatever the cost,” said Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. The package includes various measures like warranties, loans support in short-time work, emergency aid for businesses and specific sectors that are particularly affected.

Government Grants & Loans

  • Loans and Warranties for Loans: With the goal of supporting and ensuring the economic survival of Austrian companies that are experiencing serious liquidity issues due to the Corona crisis, the Austrian government provides a total of 15 billion euros prompt granting of financial resources. The Republic guarantee covers 90% of the loan amount. In addition, there will soon be 100% guarantees for SMEs on which the Ministry of Finance is working at full speed. (as of April 3, 2020)
  • Grants: Grants are awarded to cover fixed costs (e.g. rent, insurance, interest expenses, etc.) for companies that are suffering revenue losses of at least 40% due to the Corona crisis. (as of April 3, 2020)
  • Support Package for Startups: On April 16, the Austrian Government announced two funds which are intended to support startups in coping with the corona crisis:
    • The aws COVID-19 Aid Fund supports innovative startups in Austria with a total amount of 100 million euros to reduce financing and liquidity problems (private capital – from 10,000 to 800,000 euros – is doubled through grants).
    • The (private) VC-Funds focus on Austrian technology startups that would probably have closed a funding round if COVID-19 had not occurred. The volume of the private funds is 50 million euros and 50% of it is guaranteed by the state.

 

Tax Relief 

 

 

Business continuity planning

  • Short-Time Work: COVID-19 short-time work is a form of short-time work adapted to the current situation. It helps to secure employment and to overcome the economic difficulties associated with COVID-19. (as of April 9, 2020)
  • Hardship Funds (“Härtefallfond”) for Self-Employed, Small Enterprises, Independent Contractors and NPOs: The hardship fund with a volume of two billion euros is a rapid first-aid measure of the Federal Government for the acute financial emergency in the Corona crisis. Following the first funding phase (fast financial help for self-employed persons up to 1,000 euros), the second funding phase also includes newly founded companies that were founded after 1.1.2020. A subsidy of max. 2,000 euros per month for a maximum of three months will compensate for loss of earnings – up to a total of 6,000 euros. (as of April 2, 2020)
  • Digital Team Austria: Many companies are switching to remote working, but in many cases the necessary digital tools are missing or not available. The newly founded Digital Team Austria offers digital services for SMEs free of charge for at least three months. Depending on what’s needed, the service includes tools for video conferences, digital collaboration / virtual workspaces, cybersecurity, internet access.
  • [Vienna] “Proud of Vienna” Funds: The City of Vienna announced “Stolz auf Wien” Funds of 50 Million euro for Vienna-based companies. Through the fund the city secures the future of essential Viennese companies through a participation model of the city with up to 20% share for a maximum of 7 years. (as of April 5, 2020)
  • [Vienna] Promotion of the establishment and expansion of online shop systems for Small Enterprises: The Wirtschaftsagentur Wien makes it possible for Vienna based small enterprises to apply for funding to establish an online shop system to continue with their business. Submission period is April 10 until June 10, 2020.

 

Other

  • Emergency Call – R&D Fund for research on COVID-19: To enable rapid containment of the Coronavirus, a short-term funding of 26 million euro for R&D projects and clinical trials was made available by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). In addition to “traditional” R&D in virus biology, infection prevention, medicines or other treatments, also individual R&D projects in innovative and alternative areas (e.g. protective clothing) can be submitted. Submission deadline is May 11, 2020. (as of April 9, 2020)
  • [Vienna] Promotion of COVID-19-relevant production and development projects: With Innovate4Vienna the Wirtschaftsagentur Wien supports the fast and efficient implementation of COVID-19 relevant production and development projects, such as medical devices and medical software, software solutions, protective equipment, hygiene and disinfection measures, tools for social distancing, expansion of diagnostic capacities or logistics solutions. Vienna-based businesses can apply from April 10 until June 30, 2020.

 

DENMARK

The Danish government has presented several initiatives to strengthen the liquidity of Danish companies with the aim to save jobs, prepared to use all the necessary resources to protect the Danish economy and to support employees, workplaces and companies during the Corona health crisis. This service matches you with the Danish initiatives most relevant to your business. 

Government Grants & Loans

  • Freelancers or smaller businesses: For companies with less than 10 employees, there is a possibility of compensation. Conditions are that the owners own a minimum of 25% of the business. You also need to reach 10.000 DKK revenue on an average monthly basis.
  • Loan guarantee: The Danish Growth Fund, the state’s investment fund, provides support if you rely on private financial services to get your business through the COVID-19 crisis. They provide a guarantee, which can make it easier for you to obtain a loan or credit through a financial institution. The loan guarantee from The Danish Growth Fund is only given to companies with a current or future revenue loss of 30%.

 

Tax Relief

  • Postponed tax and VAT initiative: For small and medium-sized companies, the window to pay A-tax (tax deducted directly from the income) has been extended four months. This goes for payments that were originally due from April-June. The deadlines to pay VAT within the first half of 2020 have been pushed to the second half of the year by the tax authorities, Skat.

Business continuity planning

  • Salary compensation: The Danish state covers salary costs for companies that face the reality of letting go 30% of their workforce or 50 employees.
  • Coverage of other costs: There is the possibility of being compensated if your revenue has dropped 40% and you have experienced a loss of 25.000 DKK in fixed company costs.
  • Efforts with special relevance for companies running public events: Businesses that rely on people getting together can achieve compensation for cancelled events due to COVID-19. You need a minimum of 1000 confirmed attendees or 500 if the attendees are within groups with an increased vulnerability to the virus.


Other initiatives

Worth mentioning is also independent fundraising campaigns that run on platforms such as samlind.dk – like this one for the excellent media scale-up Heartbeats

Corona Funding also facilitates funding support specifically targeted towards startups through a simple application process.

 

IRELAND

Government Grants & Loans

Throughout COVID-19, the Irish government have introduced new financial assistance for business, as well as providing their regular services to companies that are particularly helpful at this time. These grants and loans are allocated from the government itself (Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation), as well as government organisations (Local Enterprise Office) set up to support growing businesses, and government collectors of tax and duties (Revenue). Below are some of the initiatives put in place in March 2020 by these organisations to help businesses during the pandemic.

  • Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI): The DBEI have availed of an  SME Credit Guarantee Scheme to support loans up to €1 million for periods of up to 7 years. This scheme is still applicable in recent times of COVID-19. Check your eligibility here. Also, COVID-19 Business Loans are available to Microenterprises from Microfinance Ireland. The loan is interest-free for 6 months and is to be repaid over the remaining 30 of the 36-month loan period. Applications can be made through at Microfinance Ireland.
  • Revenue: The COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme allows affected employees to receive support from their employer through the payroll system. The Revenue scheme is expected to last 12 weeks from 26 March 2020. The scheme provides employees 70% of the employee’s Average Net Weekly Pay to a maximum of €410 per week where the Average Net Weekly Pay is less than or equal to €586 or a maximum of €350 per week where the Average Net Weekly Pay is between €586 and €960. This scheme also applies to self-employed depending on if they are a PAYE worker. If not, self-employed can apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic  Unemployment Payment. Regular updates on this scheme are available here
  • Local Enterprise Office (LEO): A Trading Online Voucher was introduced for businesses that employ up to 10 employees. It offers financial assistance and advice to help your business trade online. LEO also offers a Business Continuity Voucher for businesses in all sectors that employ up to 50 people. The voucher is worth up to €2,500 in third-party consultancy costs and can be attained by businesses and sole traders to create short and long-term strategies in response to the pandemic. 

 

Tax Relief

Throughout the pandemic, government taxation issuers Revenue has continued providing a range of services to businesses and taxpayers. Due to the significant effect on businesses financially at this time, Revenue has developed a number of advisory and relief initiatives for those whose company is in difficulty.

  • Revenue Key Advice for Taxpayers and Agents: Revenue has provided COVID-19 information and advice for taxpayers and agents experiencing challenges in terms of taxation because of the impacts of COVID-19.
  • Revenue Key Advice for SMEs Cash Flow: Revenue has also issued updated advice to SMEs experiencing cash flow difficulties arising from COVID-19. This includes information about tax returns, late payment interest, debt and taxation.
  • Revenue’s E-Worker Relief: Employees working from home are eligible for Revenue’s e-worker relief. This is a tax-free payment that has been available before March 2020. As employees must work from home to support national public health objectives, the employer may pay the employee up to €3.20 per day tax-free to cover the additional costs of working from home. Read here for updates and more information.

 

Business continuity planning

As the future of businesses in Ireland is uncertain, the Irish government has developed business continuity just ahead of lockdown in March 2020. Most notably, these services have come from government organisations (Enterprise Ireland and Local Enterprise Office) and governmental authorities (National Standards Authority of Ireland). Ireland has put in place the following services to allow businesses to maintain switch to digital networking activities, produce hygiene standards in the physical workplace and has constructed contingency plans for the future.

  • Enterprise Ireland: The Lean Business Continuity Voucher allows companies access up to €2,500 in training or consultancy services support related to the operation of their business during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is available to SME’s part of Enterprise Ireland or Údarás na Gaeltachta. 
  • National Standards Authority of Ireland:  Publication of NSAI workplace protection and improvement guide and a €2,500 support for businesses was designed in March 2020 to implement workplace prevention and recovery measures preventative as a guide to employers before and after the pandemic.
  • Local Enterprise Office: The Local Enterprise Offices have moved training programmes, workshops and networking events online, and have included relevant topics such as crisis management, perseverance through COVID-19 and advice for employers during the pandemic. LEO also provides a range of support for microenterprises in relation to the pandemic. For more information, contact your Local Enterprise Office

 

Learn more about How is the Coronavirus affecting the European Innovation Community in our research that covers issues related to how our community of entrepreneurs are managing uncertainty, smart working, as well as forecasts of work and innovation on the other side of COVID-19.

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