The Slovenia Times

Parliament passes new Covid relief package


Ljubljana - The National Assembly endorsed on Monday the 10th omnibus coronavirus relief bill, a package of diverse measures such as one-off solidarity bonuses for vulnerable groups, extension of certain measures in healthcare, and liquidity loans. The entire package is valued at up to EUR 280 million.

The bill was adopted in a partisan 46:42 vote amidst warnings by the opposition that some provisions had no place in what is supposed to be primarily a stimulus law.

The bill extends some measures in healthcare, and introduces compensation for those who suffered severe side effects after getting a Covid jab or receiving Covid drugs.

"Vaccination is the safest and most effective preventive measure in the fight against Covid-19, but in rare cases serious adverse effects may incur, hence the damages," Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj said.

It brings a legal basis to limit arrivals from countries with a poor epidemiological situation, and extends last year's tourist vouchers until the end of June 2022.

Pensioners with pensions under EUR 714 a month will receive one-off aid of EUR 130, 230 or 300, while farmers over 65 who do not receive pensions, the disabled, and war veterans will get EUR 150.

A bonus for civil protection staff and students helping out at medical organisations or care homes is also being introduced, alongside partial refunding of the lost income for the self-employed and farmers due to quarantine or force majeure.

The bill also extends the period in which a worker can go on annual leave and stipulates that the state will cover employer costs of rapid tests for employees until the end of January, up to EUR 60 per worker.

The Enterprise Fund will give out liquidity loans and the scheme of financial incentives is being extended into 2022.

The most controversial provision, added during committee proceedings despite protests by the opposition, is the raising of the maximum pay bracket for doctors and dentists, a move which the government says implemented a doctors' strike demand from 2016.

With the new measures, the pay of doctors in the top pay bracket could increase by around 25%, as the base pay is EUR 3,960 gross in the 57th bracket but EUR 5,010 in the 63rd.

The move comes amidst a strong push by doctors to exit the uniform pay system for the public sector.

One major contested provision - a legal basis for decree-based tightening of rules governing public assembly, religious freedom and some services - was dropped after meeting with fierce opposition from opponents of restrictions.

This provision also served as a rallying call for a rally in front of Parliament House today which featured an estimated 500 protesters voicing opposition to restrictions.

The debate saw the opposition dispute in particular the provisions on doctors' pay and its potentially devastating impact on the public sector pay system, and complain that the legislation would do little to actually help industries that continue to be severely affected by the pandemic.

Some warned that the very fact a tenth package was being adopted showed the government had done a poor job with previous relief bills, and they argued that some of the measures would not have been needed had the government simply formally declared an epidemic.

The coalition, meanwhile, argued that the bill brought relief to the people, with the ruling Democrats (SDS) stressing that previous stimulus laws had been effective.


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