The Chamber of SMEs stated that despite the €1.8 billion rescue package issued by the government, Malta will have to prepare for mass layoffs, business closures and unemployment since this is not enough to support all employees. Amongst others, small businesses will suffer due to this pandemic as there would not be enough money to compensate employees, resulting in a high rate of unemployment.
The Maltese Government has announced a number of financial packages in order to assist businesses in staying afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses and self-employed persons may benefit from the following under the Business Assistance package:
- The COVID Wage Supplement has been extended till end of June 2021, after which it will be reduced gradually before ending in December 2021. Depending on the category of employment or industry, employees and self-employed persons continue to benefit from wage supplements of up to €800 for full-timers and €500 for part-timers.
- From July 2020 ineligible pensioners and students registered with JobsPlus since 9th of March 2020 may now be considered for the Wage Supplement Scheme.
- Bank guarantees for companies requesting operational loans with low interest rates and longer repayment period in line with the Malta Development Bank (MBD) ‘COVID-19’ Guarantee Scheme whereby the MBD guarantees any loans granted by commercial banks to Maltese businesses suffering from acute liquidity shortage due to COVID-19 pandemic.
- Business Re-Engineering and Transformation Scheme – SMEs operating in Malta and employing 10-250 persons can benefit from a cash grant covering 50%, with a maximum of €5000, per undertaking to optimise the use of technology within their operations. Beneficiaries may receive this grant every 18 months up to the 31st of October 2023.
- VAT Payments deferral scheme – this scheme has been extended whereby applicants are able to make smaller payments up until March 2022, interest free.
- Businesses participating in international fairs can benefit from an 80% refund for any cancelled fairs due to the pandemic.
- Innovation Scheme – SME’s working IoT solutions and AI integration processes benefit from a grant covering 50% of the costs, capped at €200,000. Large enterprises can benefit when collaborating with SMEs.
- Export Credit Guarantee scheme – a €10M budget has been allocated to encourage diversification of markets such as the African Continent, Middle East, Latin America.
- Modernisation of Construction equipment – cash grants can be given covering 40% of the costs of purchasing new construction equipment, up to €200,000.
- Investment Aid Scheme – businesses operating within the production of COVID-19 related products may benefit from a grant covering 80% of the production costs provided products are completed within 6 months from the start of works. An additional 15% is granted for completion within 2 months.
- Skills Development Scheme – a €5M budget has been allocated for grants to SMEs employing not more than 50 people to facilitate in-house training of employees.
- COVID-19 R&D Fund – a €5.3M budget to aid public, academic and private entities for projects, lasting not more than 18 months, relating to the tackling of the current and future pandemics initiated between February 2020 till end of year.
- A €5M budget was allocated towards refunds for license payments made to the Trade department and MTA.
- A Bond underwriting facility in which the Malta Development Bank acted as underwriter for private enterprise bonds. This has closed in the year 2020.
- Temporary refund of 33% of port charges for those ships that bring cargo into Malta supporting the economic chain and 10% refund on container discharge fees for imports and exports.
- COVID-19 Export Research Scheme – helps beneficiaries to invest in marketing campaigns targeted at foreign markets.
- Rent refund scheme for self-employed and businesses – refund on the rent and electricity payments for undertakings operating from business premises. All businesses which have received or are receiving support under the Wage Supplement Scheme are eligible to benefit from this temporary measure.