Close to 100 000 people lost their jobs after Bulgaria’s coronavirus State of Emergency began

Unemployment in Bulgaria rose from 201 000 at the start of Bulgaria’s State of Emergency on March 13 to 300 776 to date, Labour and Social Policy Minister Denitsa Sacheva said on May 15.

More than 28 000 people had got jobs in that time, she said.

Sacheva was speaking at a briefing along with Deputy Prime Ministe Tomislav Donchev and Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov on social and business support measures in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Donchev said that since the launch of the state grant scheme for small and micro enterprises at 10 am on May 14, about 16 500 applications to a sum of 136 million leva had been submitted, and applications continue to be accepted.

“The scheme remains open as long as funding is available, because we believe this is the way to get the money to those who need it the fastest,” Donchev said.

The European Commission announced on May 14 that it had approved the scheme, which is billed as addressing the liquidity needs of micro and small companies in Bulgaria.

The briefing was told that up to May 13, only 2200 Bulgarians had taken the 4500 leva interest-free loans available with the backing of Bulgarian Development Bank.

Donchev said that the reason was that the loans were only now coming on to the market. Six banks were offering them, and the expectation was that this would rise to 12.

Karanikolov said that a new financial scheme was envisaged under the programme.

Sacheva said that 42 000 people in 24 municipalities were being served by the social assistance programme that carries out shopping services and pays bills on behalf of elderly people and those under quarantine.

A total of 3753 applications had been submitted for assistance for parents on unpaid leave, and the measure is to continue as long as necessary. Currently, funding has been provided to last to the end of the year.

Sacheva said that it was “too early” to draw conclusions about the 60:40 measure, by which the state picks up 60 per cent an employer’s payroll costs and the employer is obliged to pay the remaining 40 per cent.

The 60:40 measure has come under criticism from the private sector, where business associations have pointed to the low take-up of the scheme, which is billed as saving jobs. Employers have called for the scheme to be rewritten to provide greater support.

Sacheva said that after June 30, the scheme would be transformed, with new features.

At the briefing, it was announced that pensions in Bulgaria would increase by 6.6 per cent, with the minimum becoming 250 leva a month.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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