Belgium

Introduction

Belgium has adopted various measures, both at federal and regional level, to provide financial flexibility to allow companies to overcome their temporary financial difficulties.  

EU State aid law context

National State aid schemes (programs) introduced by EU Member States and individual aid granted by national instances must comply with the applicable EU State aid law. Member States may e.g. notify new programs based on the EU Commission’s Temporary Framework, introduce new programmes or grant aid in individual cases based on the provisions of the Treaty (Art. 107 para 2 TFEU) on aid to recover the damage caused by exceptional occurrences or grant aid to firms in difficulty under the Guidelines for Rescue and Restructuring aid. Please refer to the EU chapter for more details.

National Public Support

Federal government measures introducing a payment plan for different public debts (taxes, social security, VAT, etc.)

Who is eligible for the aid?

Undertakings and natural persons registered with the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises (“Banque Carrefour des entreprises”) regardless of their sector of activity that: 

  • are experiencing financial difficulties; and 
  • can demonstrate these result from the outbreak of the coronavirus.Indeed, those support measures may not be granted to companies which, independently of the coronavirus crisis, have structural payment problems.

What does the aid consist of?   

Public support consists of:

  • the establishment of a payment plan; 
  • an exemption from late payment interest; or 
  • a remission of fines for non-payment of public debts, such as social security contributions, VAT, professional withholding tax as well as personal income taxes and corporate taxes.

The Government has set up a guarantee scheme for companies and self-employed with a budget of 50 billion EUR to cover new credits for up to one year. This scheme has been adopted by a law of 27 March 2020 and a royal decree 1 Royal Decree of 14th April 2020, in Flemish and French : http://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/mopdf/2020/04/15_2.pdf#Page3  of 14 April 2020 and applies to credits granted between 1 April 2020 and 30 September 2020.

To be eligible for this guarantee , the companies must prove that they were not in difficulty on 31 December 2019 and that they are viable (not in arrears as of 1 February 2020, or by less than 30 days as of 29 February 2020 and are not currently subject to a credit restructuring).

In order to ensure that the guarantee is only used when a sufficient amount of losses is reached, the maximum amount of the state guarantee is:

  • 0% for the first 3% of losses;
  • 50% for the next 2% of losses;
  • 80% for the remaining losses.   

The scheme provides that the premium charged by the lender to the borrower, will be equivalent to: 

  • 0.25% (for SMEs) and 
  • 0.5% (for large firms)    

Additionally, the scheme provides for a moratorium on interest payments and loan repayments for existing loans until the end of September 2020.

Where to apply for the aid?

Applications, valid for all measures, must be made via a form published on the website of the federal public finance service 2 In French : https://finances.belgium.be/fr/entreprises/mesures-de-soutien-dans-le-cadre-du-coronavirus-covid-19 In Flemish : https://financien.belgium.be/nl/ondernemingen/steunmaatregelen-betreffende-het-coronavirus-covid-19 , by e-mail or by post. There is a single point of contact for all measures: the Regional Collection Centre determined by the postal code of the address or head office.

Applications must be made before 30 June 2020.

The guarantee scheme applies to credits granted between 1 April 2020 and 30 September 2020.

Is a notification to the EU Commission necessary?    

No for the rescheduling of debts, interests and fines. These public supports are general measures that do not constitute a State aid and therefore must not be formally authorised by the EU Commission.

Yes regarding the guarantee scheme. The aid scheme has been notified and was approved on 11 April 2020 by the European Commission under the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak 3 Press release of the European Commission : https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/fr/ip_20_648. .

Further remarks

None.


Regional measures

Measures of the Brussels Region for companies

Who is eligible for the aid?

Shops, stores and establishments that:

  • are closed due to state containment measures; and
  • have less than 50 full-time workers; and
  • are active in one of the sectors listed in the annex of the Order of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region relating to aid for the compensation of undertakings af-fected by the emergency measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19, available on the website of the Brussels region.

What does the aid consist of?   

  • A single premium of EUR 4.000 or public guarantees on bank loans, for a total of 20 million EUR;
  • The suspension of the payment of the City Tax for the first semester of 2020;
  • The possibility to obtain a loan from finance&invest.brussels with subsidised interest rates for the Horeca sector;
  • Increased assistance to companies in difficulty via hub.brussels.

Where to apply for the aid?

The request for the premium must be made online by 18 May 2020, to “Bruxelles Economie et Emploi (BEE)”.

This request must be accompanied by two documents:

  • the last VAT declaration; and
  • a bank certificate relating to the company's account. This certificate must mention the name of the bank, the name of the company, its contact details and the account num-ber of the company.

The request for the guarantees on bank loans must be submitted via the Brussels Guarantee Fund.

Is a notification to the EU Commission necessary?    

The legal basis for the measures of limited amount (premiums, suspension of tax, assistance, etc.) is unclear however they could be qualified as de minimis aid, and not subject to notification to the EU Commission.

The loans and guarantees will have to be notified on the basis of the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak if the undertakings concerned are in difficulty because of the crisis.

Further remarks

None.


Measures of the Walloon Region for companies  

Who is eligible for the aid?

Companies active in the hotel/travel/tourism sectors, retail, bus sector etc. that have their head office or operating headquarters in Wallonia and that:

  • are impacted by decreased revenues due to the reduction in the financial share of the beneficiaries of their benefits;
  • have an employment workforce of less than 50 workers; and
  • have: either total annual turnover of no more than EUR 10 million; or total annual budget of no more than EUR 10 million;
  • have been active since before 12th March 2020;
  • have paid social security contributions in 2018.

Hospitals and retirement homes for specific public support.

SME and large companies will be eligible for public guarantees.

All the undertakings are eligible for the measure concerning the freezing of loans.

What does the aid consist of?    

A premium of EUR 5.000 per company, for a period of 3 months for those companies that have had to close because of the state measures against the COVID-19 and EUR 2.500 for those that have had to adapt their days of business without closing completely.

There is a general freeze on loans outstanding until the end of March 2020. This freeze may be extended to the end of April 2020.

Public loans by SOGEPA up to EUR 200.000.

Public guarantees granted by Geligar (large companies), SOWALFIN (SME) and SOGEPA.

Where to apply for the aid?

The Walloon platform for submitting a request for the premium have been put online by the SPW Economy.  

Is a notification to the EU Commission necessary?    

The legal basis for the measures of limited amount (premiums, loans, etc.) is unclear however they could be qualified as de minimis aid, and not subject to notification to the EU Commission.

The guarantees will have to be notified on the basis of the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak if the undertakings concerned are in difficulty because of the crisis.

Further remarks

None.


Measures of the Flemish Region for companies  

Who is eligible for the aid?

Entrepreneurs and self-employed persons that have a physical location in Flanders and that are obliged to close their business because of the corona measures, restaurants and chip shops that have switched to take out services.
Undertakings in need of a bridging loan as a result of the corona crisis that cannot conclude a financing agreement due to insufficient guarantees.

What does the aid consist of?    

A premium of EUR 4.000 and if the obligatory closure of the business continues after 5th April 2020, a fee of EUR 160 per day. Restaurants and chip shops that switched to take out services can receive the premium of EUR 4.000 and a daily fee of EUR 160 after 4th April 2020.

These undertakings may ask for a guarantee up to 75% of their credit commitments, up to a maximum amount of  EUR 1.5 million. This arrangement also applies to certain leasing contracts. The crisis guarantee can be used for a maximum of 12 months.

Where to apply for the aid?

The request can be made online on the website of the Flemish region until 19 May 2020.

Is a notification to the EU Commission necessary?    

The legal basis for the measures of limited amount (premiums, loans, etc.) is unclear however they could be qualified as de minimis aid, and not subject to notification to the EU Commission.

The guarantees will have to be notified on the basis of the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak 4 Press release of the European Commission : https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_636. if the undertakings concerned are in difficulty because of the crisis.

Further remarks

None.

Authors

Picture of Annabelle Lepièce
Annabelle Lepièce