Italy passes $29bn stimulus package for COVID-19 recovery

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte

Rome, (Samajweekly) The Italian cabinet on Friday has passed a new decree containing new supportive measures worth 25 billion euros ($29 billion) to address the COVID-19 emergency and encourage economic recovery.

The decision on the extra spending had been taken by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet in a previous meeting on July 23 and authorized by Parliament on July 29, reports Xinhua news agency.

The fresh resources represented the third economic provision aimed at supporting the economy, which has been severely hit by the lockdown measures imposed to curb the coronavirus.

A first 25-billion-euro decree had been passed in March, and a second worth 55 billion euros in May.

“The decree aims at supporting workers, businesses, and local institutions overall,” Conte told a press conference after the meeting on Friday.

“The latest data by ISTAT (the National Institute of Statistics) showed consumption has partially resumed in June already, and this was possible also thanks to the previous measures delivered.”

The new stimulus measures contained in the 103-article decree includes an 18-week extension of public funding for workers put in temporary redundancy schemes.

Companies accessing the schemes, however, will have to put on hold any cut to their workforce in the same period.

In addition, employers calling back workers, who were put on redundancy in the previous months due to the COVID-19 crisis, will be allowed a 100 per cent cut of social contribution payments for four months.

A specific measure to help businesses and employment in the less-developed southern regions was delivered, providing for a 30 per cent cut of social contribution payments to companies for all of their employees (and not just for new hiring) starting from October 1.

Among other provisions, the package included extra funding for public schools reopening in September under anti-COVID safety rules and rescheduling of fiscal and social contribution payments for workers across a period of two years.

A specific non-repayable fund was set aside “to support businesses based in the historic centres of 29 cities across Italy that are particularly devoted to international tourism,” Conte said in the press conference, not specifying the total amount of the fund.

A 400-euro ’emergency income’ introduced in March for supporting low-income households hit by the coronavirus emergency was also renewed until October 15.

With the new decree, some containment measures approved in the previous months to curb the spread of the coronavirus were extended up to September 7.

Wearing face masks will remain mandatory in all indoor public spaces, as well as maintaining the one-metre interpersonal safety distance, and avoiding public gatherings.

A state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic declared by the Italian government on January 31, and originally due to expire on July 31, was recently extended until October 15.