EXPLAINED: How you could benefit from Italy’s Covid-19 financial support

The Italian government has approved a long-awaited financial aid package worth €32 billion. We break down what the main measures mean.

EXPLAINED: How you could benefit from Italy's Covid-19 financial support
Italy's cabinet has approved a package of pandemic-related financial aid. Photo: Shutterstock

Italy’s prime minister Mario Draghi approved the Support Decree (Decreto Sostegni) on Friday, which outlines plans for the latest round of Covid-19 financial aid for companies, workers, families, vaccinations and schools.

“This decree is a significant, very substantial response to poverty, to the need that businesses and workers have, a partial response but the most we could do within this allocation,” Draghi said at a press conference on Friday.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: Most of Italy under lockdown again as country battles new wave of infections

From the total fund of €32 billion, €11 billion will enter the Italian economy in April, according to the prime minister.

“It is necessary to guide companies and workers in the path out of the pandemic. This is a year in which you do not ask for money, you give money. The time will come to look at the debt but this is not the time to think about [EU debt limits],” he added.

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI/POOL/AFP

Here’s an overview of where those €32 billion will go. 

Cancellation of old tax bills

In order to help companies and employees, the government will cancel old debt, namely old tax bills of up to €5,000 incurred between 2000 and 2010. This is valid for people who have a maximum income of €30,000 per year – or €50,000 per year if the tax bill is owed by a company.

“It is clear that the State has stopped working on tax records – a State that has allowed the accumulation of millions and millions of tax bills that cannot be claimed. Something has to be changed”, stated Draghi.

Included in the decree, there will also be “a part that provides for a change in the collection of tax, a small reform of controls and checks. Without it, in a couple of years we would still have millions of tax debt to collect,” he explained.

By cancelling old tax bills of up to €5,000, there is also a wiping of extra debt, which “corresponds to a net of €2,500 in interest and various penalties”, said Draghi. This “allows the administration to pursue the fight against tax evasion even more efficiently”, he added.

Measures to help the self-employed

Support is granted to workers who have a partita IVA number (VAT number) if they have suffered a 30 percent loss of turnover in 2020 compared to 2019. 

Self-employed workers and seasonal workers in tourism will also receive a one-off allowance of €2,400 for three months’ pay, with a total of €900 million allocated for this group.

There is also a €3,000 bonus for VAT-registered businesses, which is calculated on the basis of annual turnover.

According to government estimates, about 800,000 professionals and around 3 million small and medium-sized enterprises will be able to benefit from the new relief.

READ ALSO: ‘Smart working’? Here’s what you need to know about going self-employed in Italy

The aid starts from a minimum of €1,000 for individuals, to €3,000 for those with VAT numbers. Up to a maximum of €150,000 is available for companies and the bonuses don’t count as taxable income.

You can calculate how much you may be entitled to by applying a percentage to the difference between the average monthly amount of turnover and fees in 2020 and the average monthly amount of turnover and fees in 2019.

Here’s a breakdown of what businesses may be eligible for:

  • 60 percent for companies with a turnover of up to €100,000;
  • 50 percent for companies with a turnover of between €100,000 and €400,000;
  • 40 percent for companies with a turnover between €400,000 and €1 million;
  • 30 percent for companies with a turnover between €1 and €5 million;
  • 20 percent for companies with a turnover between €5 and €10 million.

For example, if you earned €4,000 per month on average in 2019 and this dropped to €2,000 per month on average in 2020, you’d fall into the first category. So you would be eligible to claim 60 percent of the difference – that is, of the €2,000 shortfall. That means you could be entitled to €1,200.

Meanwhile, approximately €1.5 billion have been earmarked for the exemption of social security contributions for self-employed professionals.

Extension of the redundancy fund and a layoff freeze

The freeze on firing employees has been extended until 30th June. This is pushed further back again, until October, for companies using the Covid-19 redundancy fund. It remains valid until 31st December for a maximum of 28 weeks.

In addition, fixed-term contracts can be renewed or extended without a reason until 31st December.

Unemployment benefits

In a move to support those out of work, the new measures make claiming unemployment benefits less difficult.

READ ALSO: Poverty rises to 15-year high in Italy amid coronavirus crisis

Until 31st December, it’s not necessary to have worked at least 30 days in the last 12 months to obtain the NASPI (Nuova Prestazione di Assicurazione Sociale per l’Impiego) unemployment benefit.

Instead, to qualify a person must:

  • Be in a state of involuntary unemployment.
  • In the four years preceding the start of being unemployed, they must have at least 13 weeks of social security contributions (INPS).

This change is expected to lead to an increase in the number of claimants.

€300 million granted to support schools

The new measures contain support for schools affected by Covid-19. This includes cash bonuses to cover staff absent from school while getting their vaccinations.

“There are resources for the safe return, as soon as possible, to all activities in school. And there are resources to guide closing the school year and building a bridge to the next one, to recover skills and socialisation,” said Education Minister Patrizio Bianchi.

“We are working to further integrate the measures dedicated to enhancing education,” he added.

Prime Minister Draghi said: “As far as I’m concerned, schools will be the first to reopen when the infection situation allows – at least resuming school attendance up to sixth grade.”

Parental leave and babysitting bonus: help for families

Among the measures in the Decree to support families is the babysitter bonus – and it’s available for both employees and the self-employed.

Those who qualify for this include workers enrolled in INPS, the self-employed, personnel in the security, defence and public rescue sector employed to cope with Covid-19, doctors, nurses, laboratory and radiology technicians and health workers, with at least one cohabiting child under 14 years of age.

The maximum amount available is €100 euros per week. Essentially, the parent receives vouchers worth €100 each (up to a total of €1,200 or €2,000 depending on the profession), which they can spend to pay for a babysitter for the duration of school closures, quarantine or a Covid-19 infection.

INPS is expected to announce how to access the extra ‘babysitter bonus’ in the next few days.

Alternatively, one parent only can ask to work from home, or claim an allowance equal to 50 percent of their salary. This means one parent can take enough leave to cover the entire duration of distance learning or quarantine for children under 14 years of age.

If the child is between 14 and 16 years old, one of the parents can request total absence from work, with the guarantee that he or she cannot be dismissed and can keep his or her job. However, they will not be entitled to any pay or allowances.

READ ALSO: Italy’s ‘baby bonuses’: What payments are available and how do you claim?

More than 104,000 people have already died in Italy since the pandemic hit the country just over a year ago, according to official figures.

The latest rising case numbers caused the government to shut schools, restaurants and shops in most of Italy on Monday, for at least three weeks.

Draghi, a former president of the European Central Bank who became the head of a national unity government last month, said the only way out of the crisis is through the vaccination programme.

READ ALSO: Where to register for a Covid-19 vaccine in your region of Italy

Speaking about the overall aim of his Support Decree, he said: “The objective of this decree is to give more money to everyone, give it quickly and give as much as possible.”

For the full text, you can see all aspects of the Decreto Sostegni below.

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Who can vote in Italy’s elections?

With Italy's next general election scheduled for September 25th, who is eligible to vote - and how can those who are do so?

Who can vote in Italy's elections?

Who can vote in Italy?

For the upcoming election in September, the answer is simple: only Italian citizens are eligible to vote in Italy’s general elections.

Foreign EU nationals who are resident in Italy can register to vote in municipal and European parliamentary elections, but national elections are reserved for Italians only.

Until recently, not even all Italian adults could participate fully in the process: just last year, voters needed to be over the age of 25 to take part in senate elections.

That finally changed with a reform passed by parliament in July 2021. It’s now the case that any citizen over the age of 18 can vote for their representatives in both the lower house and the senate (both ballots are held at the same time).

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

You don’t need to be resident in Italy to vote; Italian citizens living abroad can register to vote via post.

In fact, Italy is unusual in assigning a set number of MPs and senators to ‘overseas constituencies’ that represent the interests of Italians abroad.

These constituencies are split into four territories: a) Europe; b) South America; c) Northern and Central America; d) Africa, Asia, Oceania and Antarctica. Each zone gets at least one MP and one senator, with the others distributed in proportion to the number of Italian residents.

Up until recently, there were as many as 12 MPs and six senators dedicated to overseas constituencies. This will drop to eight MPs and four senators from September, thanks to another reform enacted in late 2020.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

How can you vote?

While Italy has a postal vote option for citizens living abroad, Italians resident in Italy must vote in the town in which they are registered to vote (i.e., their comune, or municipality of residency), at the specific polling station assigned to them.

What's behind Italy's declining voter turnout?

Italian citizens who are resident in Italy can only vote in person. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

The lack of a postal vote for Italians in Italy is thought to be one of the main factors behind Italy’s declining turnout in elections, and a parliamentary committee on elections has advised introducing one to help remedy the situation; but for now, only in-person votes count.

READ ALSO: What’s behind the decline in Italian voter turnout?

Italians living abroad who are on the electoral register should receive their ballot papers (pink for the Chamber of Deputies, yellow for the senate) from their consulate in the lead up to the election. Their completed ballots must arrive back at the consulate no later than 4pm local time on September 22nd.

Those who haven’t received their ballot papers by September 11th should contact their consulate to request that the documents be resent.

Italians in Italy must have a tessera elettorale, or voter’s card, to be allowed to vote in person. The card contains the holder’s full name, date of birth, address and polling station. Every time the holder goes to vote, the card – which takes the form of a piece of reinforced folded paper – is stamped.

The tessera elettorale should be automatically sent out to Italians at their home address when they reach the age of 18; for those who acquire citizenship and move to Italy later in life, it should be automatically sent to their address by the comune where they are registered as a resident.

If the tessera gets lost, damaged, or becomes filled up with stamps, the holder should request a new card from their comune. 

When an individual moves towns, they should turn in their tessera in order to receive a new one from their new comune. For those who move house but stay in the same town, their comune should send an official slip confirming the new address that can be used to update their tessera.

Anyone who hasn’t automatically received a tessera elettorale and is entitled to one should contact their comune to claim theirs.