The government has unveiled a €1.8billion package of measures to help businesses struggling to cope with the impact of the coronavirus. 

It has also announced it will no longer accept applications for work from unskilled third-country nationals but that those currently working in Malta would be protected.

The package includes €700 million in tax deferrals, €900 million in loan guarantees, a €210 million injection to assist the economy, which includes €35 million to health authorities to fight COVID-19.

Employers are also to be given €350 for every employee on quarantine leave and there will be special measures to cover leave for families and the wage bill of businesses who have had to close because of the outbreak.

Prime Minister Robert Abela described the measures as "strong and ambitious" and said that they would "protect people and all workers who work in Malta, without any distinction".

He was joined by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and Economy Minister Silvio Schembri  to unveil the details in a news conference on Wednesday night. 

Scicluna confirmed that the rate of economic growth was expected to slow but he insisted "this storm is temporary". 

"We know that this is a period which will be over, we might not know yet when exactly, but it will be."

Specific measures

Schembri announced a two-month additional benefit for the estimated 12,000 families, who could not telework or who had to take leave to take care of children during the period of school closures. The government will peg this to an €800 per month wage per affected employee.

For businesses who suffered a complete suspension of operations, the government will pay for 2 out of every 5 days of work lost.

The self-employed, who have also lost work, will receive a benefit for two days per week, also pegged to an €800 euro per month salary per employee. For the self-employed who hire people, the employer will also get government coverage for three of five days of lost work.

Companies that stalled production by 25 per cent will be guaranteed pay for one day per week.

Employees who lost their job from March 9 will also receive a special unemployment benefit, capped at €800 per month. And people with disabilities who are unable to work from home or stop working due to health concerns, will get the same benefit. 

Government housing subsidies will increase for families where one of the parents lost their job or who had to stop working to take care of children, Schembri announced.

Third-country nationals

During the conference, Schembri also announced that Malta will no longer accept applications for work from unskilled third-country nationals "with immediate effect".

He however said that any companies which sacked workers as a result of the crisis would forfeit the right to hire third-country nationals in the future.

A newly-created department at JobsPlus will also be focused on assisting any workers who lost their job, in finding a new one. 

"We need to make sure that those who are already in Malta can find alternative employment if their jobs are terminated," he said. 

Correction March 23: Aid benefits to workers are pegged to an €800 monthly salary calculation, not set to a maximum of €800.

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