What economic measures has Switzerland taken to soften the impacts of the coronavirus?
On Friday, March 20th, Switzerland announced two major economic measures to tackle the fallout from the coronavirus. A total of CHF42 billion has been set aside to fund the measures.
These are targeted at helping the self-employed by allowing them to access the existing employment benefit scheme, as well as small to medium-sized Swiss businesses through a loan scheme.
The goal of the measures is to ensure that the economy functions at a minimum of 80 percent during the crisis.
Although the announcement represents the largest financial bailout in Swiss history, it has been criticised for not going far enough to help those impacted by the virus.
Allowing self-employed people to access unemployment benefits
The first was to extend the current unemployment benefit scheme to the self-employed, of which there are an estimated 330,000 in Switzerland.
Pursuant to these rules, the unemployed will receive 80 percent of their previous salary up to a maximum of CHF196 daily.
Unemployed people who have children also receive an additional supplement.
Loans for small to medium sized businesses
The second component of the coronavirus stimulus package is making loans available to businesses in order to prevent bankruptcy.
Although these loans are administered by Swiss banks, they are guaranteed by the government.
Loans of less than CHF500,000 will be completely underwritten by the government; loans of over CHF500,000 will be 85 percent guaranteed by the government.
Photo by Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash
Companies can borrow up to 10 percent of their annual income to a maximum of CHF20 million.
After initially saying that the interest rates for these loans will be “very low”, on March 25th the rate was set at 0.5 percent.
The amount of money made available for loans is CHF20 billion but the government indicated on March 30th that more could be made available if necessary.
The loans are only available to small to medium sized companies. Larger companies are expected to have the resources to get themselves through the crisis themselves.
Who else can apply for assistance?
Money has been made available for loans for the tourism sector amounting to CHF350 million in total.
For sports clubs and organisations, CHF100 million has been made available as aid payments.
In the Swiss cultural sector – which is defined as including performing arts, design, film, visual art, literature, music and museums – CHF280 in emergency aid has been made available.
More information is available here.
Who misses out?
The measures are not exhaustive and there are some who miss out. As reported by Swiss daily Watson, the assistance only applies to those who are no longer able to work due to the coronavirus.
There are many who have taken significant financial hits as a result of the coronavirus but are still able to work and therefore are not eligible for assistance.
There are several professions in Switzerland such as taxi drivers, physiotherapists, podiatrists, gardeners, graphic designers and dentists who are still allowed to work but have seen sharp declines in income.
What are the options for anyone who has missed out?
Those in the above category still have options available to them, however these are comparatively limited.
They may apply for a loan from their bank, which will be restricted to 10 percent of their turnover in the last financial year.
They can also apply for an extension of the deadline for rent payments.
There are also a range of potential options at the cantonal level.
What support are the cantons providing?
Switzerland’s cantons have also stepped in to provide assistance, however this of course varies significantly.
In Zurich, small businesses with at least two full-time positions can apply for a one-off payment of CHF2,500.
In Grisons (Graubünden), CHF200 million has been made available for small businesses as loans. SMEs can apply for loans of up to 25 percent of annual turnover.
Applications for social assistance have also increased in Bern and Lucerne, reports Watson.