Coronavirus: Federal Council adjusts COVID-19 support measures to second wave
Bern, 18.11.2020 - During its meeting on 18 November 2020, the Federal Council decided to propose that the winter session of Parliament urgently debate ad hoc adjustments to the COVID-19 Act. This would enable a swifter reaction to ongoing developments during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal includes an expansion of the hardship support programme to CHF 1 billion in total and an increase of the Confederation's share to around two thirds. In addition, short-time working compensation payments should be extended. In sport, professional and semi-professional clubs should be able to receive support in the form of non-repayable contributions.
The Federal Council considers that the existing package of measures to cushion the impact of the pandemic is generally sufficient. However, it would like to use ad hoc adjustments to create the basis for better reacting to developments during the second wave. The Federal Council is therefore submitting a dispatch to Parliament on amendments to the COVID-19 Act and the COVID-19 Joint and Several Guarantee Act. In the COVID-19 Act, the provisions on cases of hardship (Art. 12), sport (Art. 13 and a new Art. 12b) and unemployment insurance (Art. 17), in particular, are to be amended:
- Cases of hardship: The total amount of support from the Confederation and cantons should be increased to CHF 1 billion. The Confederation's share in these costs would be 50% up to CHF 400 million (i.e. CHF 200 million) and 80% thereafter (CHF 480 million). The Confederation would thus bear around two thirds of the costs incurred, and the cantons one third. The details are regulated in the Ordinance, which is due to be approved at the forthcoming Federal Council meeting and enter into force on 1 December. In addition, the Federal Council wants to accommodate the cantons by relaxing enforcement and simplifying access to company data.
- Short-time working compensation: To secure jobs and avoid COVID-related redundancies, a renewed, targeted expansion of unemployment benefits should take place in the area of short-time working compensation. A number of the unemployment insurance-related measures introduced in spring under emergency law should be transferred into the COVID-19 Act. In particular, the entitlement to short-time working compensation should be extended to cover fixed-term employment relationships, and the grace period should be abolished.
- Sport: As a supplement to the existing stabilisation measures, professional and semi-professional clubs should be able to receive non-repayable contributions as well as loans. This should secure the core structure of Swiss performance and grassroots sport, training activities and sporting competitions. The Federal Council wants to compensate clubs for up to two thirds of their lost ticket sales revenue, based on the figures for the 2018/2019 season. In return, the clubs must meet strict requirements, specifically by permanently reducing top salaries, forgoing dividend payments, continuing to promote youth and women's sport to at least the same level as hitherto, and being completely transparent on the use of funds. Of the CHF 175 million in funds set aside for loans in 2021, it should be possible for up to CHF 115 million to take the form of non-repayable contributions. The option of granting loans continues to exist.
In addition, the Federal Council has led a discussion on reactivating the COVID-19 credit programme. In spring, these credits were in the form of emergency assistance to bridge liquidity problems in the first few months of the pandemic, but the current situation is not comparable with that during the first wave. For example, major state support measures are already in place and no market failure has been observed in the granting of ordinary business loans by the banks. In the Federal Council's view, at the moment hardship assistance is therefore the best instrument for cushioning COVID-19's negative consequences rapidly and in a targeted manner. However, in order to be able to react quickly to a potential credit crunch, the Federal Council is asking Parliament for a delegation norm to create a new loan programme. This would allow the Federal Council to set up a new system of joint and several guarantees at ordinance level in the event that the situation deteriorates sharply and credit provision no longer functions correctly.
Furthermore, the Federal Council is proposing an amendment to the Fixed Penalties Act within the framework of the COVID-19 Act. Minor infringements of the Epidemics Act (EpidA), e.g. violations of the obligation to wear a facemask, should likewise be punishable under the fixed penalty procedure.
The Federal Council is submitting the bill to Parliament with the request to debate it urgently during the winter session.
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Last modification 18.12.2020
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