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Economy

Choked by COVID, Greece’s Food Sector Gets 330M Euro Lifeline

ATHENS – With many not likely to survive otherwise, businesses in Greece’s food sector closed more than half a year during COVID-19 lockdowns will get 330 million euros ($388.72 million in state aid for supplies when they reopen.

When that will be still is uncertain as the New Democracy government, noting people are feeling “lockdown fatigue” and reluctant to obey health measures, will allow conditional reopening of most retail businesses on April 5.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said,  “I emphasize that we are not ready today to say when dining out will reopen. This will happen when epidemiological conditions allow for it,” advising patience.

That came after he met with officials and representatives of the Federation of Restaurants and Related Businesses (POESE) who had already said that thousands of bars, restaurants, taverns and caterers might not last.

Development and Investment Minister Adonis Georgiadis told Mega TV after the meeting that the reopening of restaurants and similar enterprises “is not a matter for the next two weeks,” another grim forecast.

He also avoided saying whether the reopening would take place before Greek Orthodox Easter, which falls on May 2 this year, less than two weeks before the government will allow tourists from many countries, Greek food a lure.

The money for the aid will come from the European Union’s Structural and Cohesion Funds (ESPA so the bloc must approve the spending plans.

“We have designed the largest sectoral (aid) through ESPA,” Georgiadis said. “The greatest problem for all (sector professionals) is that they lack working capital. We decided to cover the purchase of basic supplies for the restart,” he added.

Eligible businesses include those that saw 2020 sales drop at least 30 percent below those of 2019, but almost all have suffered huge losses, continued by another lockdown almost five months old.

Enterprises that were set up in 2019 will receive aid if, during a part of last year, sales were 30 percent or more below their 2019 level. Those that began in 2020 – in the middle of the pandemic – are automatically eligible.

This means that enterprises that limited their losses or even expanded through deliveries and takeaways are not eligible to receive aid in an awful irony for them as they tried to make it.

The amount of aid will be 7 percent of 2020 sales and will be capped at 100,000 euros per Tax Identification Number (AFM). The government will consider a special formula for franchises, said Kathimerini in a report.

Applications for aid must be submitted by July 31 and the disbursed amount must be spent by December 31 this year. This will be checked against invoices, and any amount not spent must be returned, up to 40,000 businesses eligible.

In January 2021, the last month for which official data are available, sales at restaurants, bars and cafés were 57.2 percent lower than January 2020. The greatest drop was on the popular island of Santorini, at 92.8 percent.

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