Corona aid extended well into 2021

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The Norwegian government, under pressure from Parliament, has decided to extend both state-financed unemployment benefits and compensation for business losses caused by Corona containment measures. All workers currently laid off will now be assured financial assistance at least until July 1.

Most restaurants and many other businesses here at Aker Brygge in Oslo remain shuttered, waiting for the Corona crisis to end. PHOTO: NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

That announcement came Monday, after opposition parties in Parliament had demanded that the roughly 60,000 Norwegians fully or partially laid off can continue to wait to be called back to their jobs, many of them in the travel, hospitality or entertainment fields.

Many have already been receiving benefits since the hotels, airlines or restaurants where they worked, for example, shut down last spring.. The government usually only offers full benefits for 26 weeks but that was extended to 52 weeks last summer. Prime Minister Erna Solberg had intended for the aid to end in April, arguing that it may be hindering people from seeking new jobs elsewhere.

Now she and her ministers have changed their minds: “We’re doing this simply to make sure that those whose jobs do come back won’t fall out of the program, and to ensure that employers will still have competent workers ready to get back to work,” claimed Labour & Welfare Minister Henrik Asheim

Compensation for fixed costs to continue, too
Solberg confirmed earlier this month that her government was also extending its compensation packages for business by another two months, through March and April. They cover as much as 80 percent of a business’ fixed costs each month when infection prevention measures have forced them to close their doors or otherwise severely cut revenues.

“There won’t be business as usual until after Easter,” Solberg said, possible even longer given the recent increases in infection and a vaccination program that won’t be able to cover the entire population until summer at the earliest. Compensation for losses in the last few months of 2020 is due to begin January 28.

The costs of the Corona aid packges are high, with most of the money likely to come from Norway’s sovereign wealth fund built up by oil revenues over the years. It’s proven to be the ultimate savings account for a rainy day, and it’s been pouring since Corona first started shutting down the country last March.

Not all the parties in Parliament were satisfied with the Conservatives-led government’s concession to extend Corona aid by a few more months. The most conservative Progress Party want the aid to continue through summer and all the way until at least October 1. “We think we need more long-term packages, both for business and for laid-off employees,” said the Progress Party’s deputy leader Sylvi Listhaug.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund