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COVID-19 Costs Leaves Holiday Bonuses Only for Greece's Most Distressed

Αssociated Press

A man, wearing a protective mask against the spread of coronavirus, walks below the hill of the Acropolis, in Athens, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

ATHENS – Christmas and New Year's holiday bonuses handed out the past few years won't happen in 2020 except for the most vulnerable households in Greece  with the state overwhelmed trying to deal with the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who gets the relief will be determined by economic need, wiping out hopes for others who had come to rely on the extra cash at year's end after a near decade of austerity put a big dent in the qualify of life for many in Greece.

About 256,000 households will be eligible, said Kathimerini, after the New Democracy government said it was doubling this month the relief package for the unemployed as well as aiding workers laid off during a second lockdown and the businesses required to stay shut at least until Dec. 1, probably longer.

The Labor Ministry said for laid-off workers in the private sector that the so-called 14th monthly salary will be based on a 534-euro ($633.14 monthly subsidy paid by the state, and not on their usual pay, which will bring a big cut for them.

Companies will cover only the period between May and December in which employees were on the payroll and not on temporary COVID-19 layoffs although there was no word on how the state will spend 32 billion euros ($37.92 billion) in loans and grants from the European Union designed to help alleviate the cost f dealing with the pandemic, the government also planning major armaments purchases such as fighter jets and frigates as tension with Turkey has risen over that country's plans to drill for oil and gas off Greek islands.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who had the country on the verge of a faster recovery from the economic crisis before the pandemic hit, may have to extend the second lockdown, a prospect that could wipe out Christmas revenues.