Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman has announced a series of new aid measures to help businesses and the self-employed. As part of the plan, financial relief worth more than NIS 1.3 billion will be granted. It will cover the adjustment of bureaucratic procedures in businesses’ favor, aid in obtaining state-guaranteed loans and assistance to small and medium-sized exporters.
“We are at the height of the current wave and want to allow individuals, the self-employed, businesses and industries that have been affected to get through the complex period with the appropriate assistance,” said Liberman. “We have learned from previous discoveries that the thing that hurts the economy the most is closures, and therefore we’re avoiding them and maintaining a trend of growth and decline in unemployment. We will continue to monitor the data, act responsibly and ensure that no one is left behind.”
Earlier this year, Liberman stated during a press conference that he saw no significant harm to the business economy of the country following the onset of the pandemic, and that the government would not be “giving handouts.” Said Liberman, “Business is in excellent shape, and I’m happy about it.”
These comments were criticized by Roei Cohen, the head of the organization Lahav, which represents independent workers and small businesses in Israel.
“I don’t know of any small business sitting back and collecting dividends.” Cohen said. “I see small businesses taking more and more loans and trying to survive this period.”
Within a week following Liberman’s initial statement, the Finance Ministry announced it would, in fact, be granting aid to employers and the self-employed in March. The approved plan is set to offer financial compensation to self-employed workers and employers whose employees have been quarantined. Additionally, the number of days required to self-quarantine has been reduced.
The plan is estimated to cost the government NIS 200 million-250m., and grants employers 50-75% of isolated employees’ salaries from the first day of isolation, depending on the size of their business.
“We shouted, and in order to silence us, we are allowed to believe that there is a new compensation mechanism, which, if approved at all, will only be given to the self-employed in March,” said Cohen in response to the new aid plan. “And let no one get confused, even the new plan does not really give a real answer.”