More than 60,000 jobs saved with the economic support measures
The Covid-19 Wage Supplement Payments covering the months of March and April, the Quarantine Leave Payment, and the Telework Scheme Incentive are expected to start being disbursed as from next week.
This was announced by the Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses Silvio Schembri when addressing a virtual press conference together with Malta Enterprise CEO Kurt Farrugia during which a detailed overview was given on the applications received so far, since the announcement of the financial economic package.
Until now, 12,885 companies and self-employed applied for the COVID-19 Wage Supplement of which 74% (9474) are self-employed, 22% (2,877) Companies, 3% (332) Partnerships and 2% (202) listed as other. This translates to 62,766 employees who will benefit from the COVID-19 Wage Supplement of whom 52,703 are full time employees and 10,063 are part-time employees, meaning that the majority of the applicants are entitled to the full wage supplement assistance.
The main sectors from which companies applied for the full wage COVID-19 Wage Supplement are the accommodation and food sectors, wholesale and retail trade, repair of vehicles, administrative and support services and transport and storage sectors. 97% of applicants are based in Malta whilst 3% are based in Gozo.
“Through this data we now have a clearer picture of the sectors that have been largely impacted by COVID-19. At the same time as a Government we are continuously monitoring the situation holistically by maintaining constant discussions with all stakeholders. The first batch of applications for the much-awaited COVID-19 Wage Supplement has now progressed to the evaluation stage. Malta Enterprise is now in a better position to process these applications in a more efficient manner by working closely with other departments in order to ensure efficacy, improve accuracy, and mitigate abuses. Covid-19 Wage Supplement Payments covering the months of March and April are expected to start being disbursed as from next week. This amounts to an investment of €100 million. There are many more applications being vetted. All applicants will receive an email to confirm whether their application was successful or not”, explained Minister Schembri.
The Minister explained that through these measures we are already saving more than half of the employees at risk of becoming redundant, something that was acknowledged even by the Chamber of Commerce.
Since the launch of the first financial aid package, Malta Enterprise has to date received 250 applications for the telework scheme aimed at companies which are investing in teleworking systems, of which over 30 applicants were assisted by Malta Enterprise. The sum disbursed so far is around €40,000, a sum which is expected to increase to the hundreds of thousands as more applications are still being processed and will be concluded in the coming days.
Regarding the incentive pertaining to the refund to employers for costs incurred in order to support the employee’s Quarantine Leave, the process of evaluation is in its advanced stage and payments will start next week. The total number of applications received so far amount to 1,044, covering 2,140 employees.
The large amounts of payments that need to be effected by Malta Enterprise in relation to this particular measure, will entail disbursement in various runs. Funds will be transferred to the bank accounts indicated by applicants in their application forms. Employers are obliged to pass along the wage supplement directly to their employees as from the next paycheck.
“It is the responsibility of the employers to forward the payment to their employees. We will not tolerate any abuses. To ensure this, Malta Enterprise will be sending out a note to all employers, after the first payment run covering March and April, to confirm that the employees have been paid and if the information submitted is still valid for future payments. If an employer is caught in breach, this will affect future assistance. Furthermore, the failure to transfer these funds to the employees will be considered as a criminal offence. In such a scenario, Malta Enterprise reserves the right to publish a list of companies that are in receipt of this Governmental assistance and to also conduct spot-checks via calls to their employees, in order to verify that the COVID wage supplement has been passed on,” said Minister Schembri.
Kurt Farrugia, Malta Enterprise Chief Executive Officer, said that since the announcement of the first Economics Support Measures, the Call Centre 144 has become the main referral point for businesses in the current circumstances. “The number of queries received on a daily basis is in the region of 3,000 a day; through the helpline 144, emails and direct meetings with Malta Enterprise Staff. Over the last 3 weeks, the helpline 144 alone received over 16,000 telephone calls. The number of queries replied through 144 and ME employees during the past 3 weeks was over 35,000,” said Farrugia.
Farrugia explained that the majority of Malta Enterprise employees have been swiftly trained in order to assist as much as possible, both via phone callbacks and detailed answers via email.
“We have also engaged in Public Relations efforts to explain the process by which one fills in these applications. At this time, applications can only be submitted online. Ideally, clients who are not as comfortable using the internet, can ask for the help of a trusted individual or their accountants. Malta Enterprise has also conducted a number of video seminars in order to outline the application process to many Corporate Service providers and employer bodies. Both employees and employers are appreciating Malta Enterprise’s efforts and the substantial assistance made available by Government at this particular time. Malta Enterprise is always happy to receive feedback from its clients and we will always do our utmost in order to live up to their expectations, including during these very particular circumstances,” said Farrugia.
Kurt Farrugia states that with start of payments happening next week, Malta’s wage scheme shall be amongst the first to be disbursed worldwide.
Minister Schembri reiterated the Government’s commitment to continue listening to businesses’ concerns in the drive to safeguard jobs. “I thank all of the staff at Malta Enterprise as well as the staff at my Secretariat, who are working around the clock to assist our business community during such a delicate time. We remain committed to listen to your needs and assist you continuously. Everyone’s commitment is key towards the best interest of all” said Minister Schembri.