SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Companies that have been hit financially by the coronavirus crisis can apply for a second round of government support from Monday.
The NOW2 ruling, which covers the period from June to September, allows companies that expect their turnover to drop by at least 20% to apply for up to 90% of their wage bill to be paid by the government.
Companies that receive the funding are barred from paying dividends or bonuses and will have to pay back 5% of the total amount if they lay off 20 or more staff. Originally the government planned to drop the latter penalty to give struggling businesses more flexibility, but ministers compromised after protests from opposition parties and unions.
The payments are administered by the employee insurance agency UWV, which also distributes unemployment benefits. The UWV is preparing to handle 80,000 claims, the same number it received in the first round.
MKB Nederland, which represents the medium and small business community, said fewer companies were expected to take up the offer of aid than during the first round of coronavirus funding, which covered the period March to May.
Altogether €2.5 million was paid out to more than 140,000 businesses. Companies including HEMA, Booking.com and Randstad have already said they will not be applying in the second round, in some cases to avoid being penalised if they decide to cut jobs.
HEMA was recently put up for sale by its shareholders after they agreed a deal with former owner Marcel Boekhoorn to cut the company’s debts. Horeca Nederland said it expected around 65% of cafes, restaurants and hotels to make use of the ruling.
Although the hospitality sector reopened in May, restrictions on the number of customers and the 1.5 metre social distancing rule have affected their profit margins. State airline KLM, which employs 33,000 people, has said it will apply for support under the ruling, along with travel company TUI.