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Economy

COVID-19 Emptying Greece’s Coffers, State Support Jeopardized

ATHENS – Two lockdowns keeping Greece’s non-essential businesses closed half of a previous year starting in March 2020 has seen state revenues fall so much that COVID-19 subsidies for workers and businesses are running out.

The monies were 20 percent below target in January, in the middle of another lockdown that began Nov. 7, 2020 in a failed bid to slow down the pandemic’s spread, with health measures now tightened again.

The Finance Ministry is revising its data downward and making projections on available state aid based on the falling numbers, said Kathimerini, likely bringing less money for people and hard-hit businesses.

That could even see assistance running out after April, the paper said, with caution growing over the state’s ability to prop up faltering companies relying on partial payments to keep afloat and workers who can’t return to the job.

Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said the New Democracy government will continue to help but can’t cover all the costs, no word on what happened to 32 billion euros ($38.33 billion) in European Union loans and grants.

That has put at risk continued payments for the unemployed, shop rents and other financial packages trying to bolster an economy sagging fast just as it was beginning to recover a year earlier from a near decade-long crisis.

If the second lockdown continues and tightens – or a third more restrictive shutdown is brought – ministry officials not named told the paper that the aid money could run out after a couple of weeks.

Alternate Finance Minister Thodoros Skylakakis told Thema FM radio he wouldn’t reveal how long the money will keep coming, the government hoping  a slow vaccination program and the hoped-for return of tourists would help.

“The economic situation is uncertain and we have to make ends meet, just like during a war,” ducking the question but saying state monies would be more targeted and less scattershot now.

Ministry calculations put the cost of the November, 2020 lockdown at 3 billion euros ($3.59 billion) in losses per month for the economy or 9 billion euros ($10.78 billion) and counting.

Allowing closed businesses to sell goods only through a click-and-collect scheme in which shoppers buy online and pick up outside the stores has cost another 500 million euros ($598.98 million) in lost taxes monthly, and still ongoing.

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