Ministerial working group on COVID-19 decides on compensation for costs of restrictive measures and on additional restrictions to be placed on food and beverage service businesses
In its meeting on Friday 14 January, the Government’s Ministerial Working Group on Coordinating COVID-19 Response discussed the development of the epidemic, closures of food and beverage service businesses and compensation for the costs of restrictive measures. On Friday morning, the ministerial working group received an overview of the epidemiological situation and heard preliminary assessments by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare on the development of the situation and the burden on hospital care in the coming weeks.
Compensation for the direct and necessary costs arising from the restrictive measures
The ministerial working group supports including compensation and support measures in the first supplementary budget proposal for 2022 to mitigate the costs arising to business and industry from the restrictions imposed due to the worsened COVID-19 situation. The first supplementary budget will be submitted to Parliament on 3 February 2022.
Due to the significant deterioration of the COVID-19 situation with the emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the Government decided in December 2021 to activate the emergency brake mechanism. To help mitigate the costs arising from the reintroduced closures and restrictive measures, compensation and support for direct and necessary costs will be included in the first supplementary budget proposal of the year.
Closure compensation would compensate for the costs of operations for the duration of the closures. The compensation would apply to premises closed by law or by order of an authority, such as sports facilities, gyms, spas and indoor playgrounds. The sixth round support for business costs is also being prepared for the duration of restrictions introduced with the activation of the emergency brake mechanism (as in the previous round, this support will apply only to businesses subject to the restrictions). Preparations for the above-mentioned support will take into account the impact of restrictions on public events on the event industry, for example.
Compensation is also being prepared for events cancelled due to restrictions on the sports and cultural sector to the extent that these are not covered by the closure compensation and support for business costs.
All of the above-mentioned forms of compensation and support will be paid for the duration of the closures and restrictive measures, or until the end of February at the latest. The additional appropriations required for these support measures will be assessed in connection with drawing up the supplementary budget proposal.
Support is also planned for professionals in the arts, cultural and creative sectors for the duration of the closures.
In addition, Government aims to extend the event guarantee to summer 2022, provided that the exceptions to EU State aid continue beyond 30 June 2022.
The temporary amendment to the Act on Unemployment Security concerning the removal of the qualifying period will be reintroduced, in part retroactively, for the period from 1 January 2022 to 28 February 2022. Likewise, a temporary amendment to the Act on Unemployment Security concerning the right of entrepreneurs to unemployment security will be introduced for the period of 1 January 2022–28 February 2022 so that entrepreneurs can receive labour market support under certain conditions even if their business activities have not been ceased completely.
The supplementary budget proposal will also make provisions for purchasing new COVID-19 vaccines and/or booster doses. In addition, the need for appropriations in 2022 to compensate municipalities, joint municipal authorities, the Åland Islands and the National Emergency Supply Agency for direct costs related to COVID-19 (including testing, vaccination and treatment) will be assessed before the next supplementary budget proposal is submitted to Parliament this spring. Preparations for a model for activities to be compensated and activity-specific compensation in 2022 are currently under way. The additional appropriations needed for this package will be taken into account in the supplementary budget proposal to be submitted in May. The Government has already made a commitment to cover the costs arising from the epidemic, such as expenditure related to testing and the expansion of testing capacity, tracing of transmission chains, quarantine, treatment of patients, health security in travel and vaccines.
Compensation for direct costs incurred by the authorities due to COVID-19 will also be taken into account in the May supplementary budget proposal.
The use and effectiveness of the additional appropriations to support children and young people, which were decided on earlier, will also be assessed by the May proposal. Based on the assessment, new proposals may be made to close learning gaps and support children and young people in other ways in order to alleviate the effects of the epidemic. The details will be assessed based on existing needs and on the needs identified during the spring, while also taking into account earlier measures.
In addition, the ministerial working group will assess the need for support for art and cultural institutions during closures and will review the adequacy of support for public transport and cargo and passenger shipping companies with a view to securing connections needed to ensure security of supply, for example.
The details of all of the above-mentioned compensation and support measures will be specified further as the supplementary budget preparations proceed.
Additional restrictions on food and beverage service businesses
The Ministerial Working Group on Coordinating COVID-19 Response decided to prepare additional restrictions on food and beverage service businesses to curb the epidemic. The new closure provisions would apply to food and beverage service businesses that primarily serve alcoholic beverages.
Businesses that primarily serve food would be excluded from the scope of the legislation, as would staff restaurants, passenger ships in international traffic and takeaway sales of food.
The preparations, which will begin immediately, will be carried out in cooperation between the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The proposal will take into account differences in the epidemiological situation from region to region. Once the legislation has been drafted, the Ministerial Working Group on Coordinating COVID-19 Response will discuss the proposal and a separate decision will be made.
Timo Lehtinen, Special Adviser (food and beverage service businesses), tel. +358 295 163 387, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Ann-Mari Kemell, Special Adviser (support and compensation), tel. +358 295 530 330, Ministry of Finance
Joonas Rahkola, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister (support and compensation), tel. +358 295 160 998, Prime Minister’s Office
Piritta Jokelainen, Special Adviser (food and beverage service businesses), tel. +358 295 047 353, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment