Since the February 2022 beginning of Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine, a succession of Bulgarian governments have approved payments of about 87 million leva (about 44.4 million euro) for accommodating Ukrainians who have fled the war, going by statements on the Tourism Ministry’s website.
Soon after the start of the war, the Kiril Petkov government put in place a system to pay hoteliers and guest houses accommodating Ukrainians who had sought refuge in Bulgaria.
Initially, the sum was 40 leva per person per day, which after May was changed to either 10 or 15 leva per day – excluding value-added tax – depending on whether the hoteliers was providing food. Just before leaving office, the Petkov government extended the latter system up to the end of September.
The current caretaker government has extended the system up to the end of October. It is not clear what will happen after that.
Statements over the past months by the Tourism Ministry variously refer to government decisions to approve payments, while others refer to sums having been paid.
On April 27, a statement quoted deputy tourism minister Irena Georgieva as telling a news conference that more than 10.5 million leva had been paid by that stage, to 313 applicants.
An April 29 statement said that payment of 11 075 446 leva had been approved, covering the period February 24 to March 31, while a statement on May 10 said that payment of 4 768 736 had been approved, for the first stage of the system.
A May 30 statement said that payment of 52 486 487 leva had been approved, covering April 1 to 30, while on August 17, a statement said that 5 010 664 leva would be paid, covering February 24 to May 31. This was followed by a September 7 statement, saying that 5 159 762 leva would be paid, for July 1 to July 31.
On October 17, the ministry said that the caretaker government had approved payment of 8 448 114 leva, for June 1 to August 31.
Statements specifically referring to sums that had been paid, as opposed to announcements of approvals of payments, came out on June 29 (a sum of 6 817 517 leva, for April 1 to 30) and July 29 (7 366 067 leva, for June 1 to 30).
The process over the months was beset by problems and delays in payments, resulting in part from the complicated system for gathering data. These delays led to repeated complaints by Bulgarian hoteliers.
On October 4, the Tourism Ministry said that it was putting into use a special software programme that would drastically reduce the time spent on processing and verifying documentation related to the accommodation system. Up to then, the huge volume of information submitted by hoteliers and institutions had been processed manually, the ministry said.
“The automated verification and processing of the data provided by the various institutions will now take minutes instead of days for the ministry’s employees and will support the faster and regular payment of delayed amounts to hoteliers,” the ministry said.
As of October 17, the Bulgaria for Ukraine dedicated government portal said that since February 24, a total of 53 565 Ukrainians fleeing the war remained in Bulgaria. A total of 16 873 were currently accommodated through the scheme, according to the portal.
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