State aid: Commission approves €434 million wage subsidy scheme to support Belgian companies affected by coronavirus outbreak

The European Commission has approved a €434 million Belgian wage subsidy scheme to support companies that have had to suspend their activities due to new emergency measures put in place by the Government to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary Framework. The scheme will be open to companies in the hospitality, culture, recreation and events, sports, holiday parks and campsites sectors, as well as travel agencies, tour operators and touristic information services. The measure also applies to some of their suppliers, subject to the condition that they have suffered a significant decrease in turnover as a result of their clients’ compulsory shutdown. The public support will take the form of direct grants, of an amount corresponding to the social security contributions due by the employers between July and September 2020. The scheme aims at avoiding lay-offs and helping the beneficiaries resume their business activities after the compulsory shutdown period. The Commission found that the Belgian scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the support (i) will be granted to companies that are particularly affected by the coronavirus outbreak; (ii) will not exceed 80% of the gross salary of the benefitting personnel in the relevant 3-month period; and (iii) is subject to the condition that the employers commit not to lay off the relevant personnel during the three months following the granting of the aid. The Commission concluded that the scheme is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU State aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.59297 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.