Finance Committee approves several amendments to new corona package

Ljubljana – The parliamentary Finance Committee has approved the newest corona crisis package after two contentious provisions were thrown out by the opposition. The committee also okayed a coalition-sponsored provision denying aid to those violating government decrees despite warning that the amendment is unconstitutional.

The seventh stimulus package was passed by the committee on Monday evening, while the National Assembly is to convene tomorrow to pass it.

The two most contentious legislative changes in the package, the possibility to retire workers who meet pension conditions and the abolishment of the state NGO fund, were thrown out by the committee today.

This means that employers will not be able to dismiss without cause workers who meet pension conditions, as proposed by the government.

Finance Minister Anderj Šircelj told the committee in the morning that the measure was designed to make it easier for the young to get employment.

The opposition, however, believes that this would not create more jobs for the young but would make it easier for employers to dismiss workers.

The opposition, in cooperation with the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), also managed to throw out a provision abolishing the state NGO fund, which pools undistributed income tax donations and distributes them among NGOs.

Meanwhile, the government-sponsored provision raising the income tax donation share from 0.5% to 1% remains in the corona crisis package.

The committee also backed an amendment by the coalition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) under which those in violation of the government’s epidemic decrees are denied the right to state aid designed to mitigate the consequences of the epidemic.

The provision was backed despite warning by a National Assembly’s legal expert that it was unconstitutional. The amendment was proposed after the operator of Krvavec ski slopes and lifts decided to keep the resort open despite orders from the government to the contrary.

The amendment caused some uncertainty among some committee members, as it is yet unclear whether the measure would have retroactive effect. They wondered whether a person who has received furlough compensation would have to repay the funds if they were fined for failing to wear a mask.

The corona crisis package includes a number of measures designed to help companies, preserve jobs and help sectors that have been shut down or restricted, Šircelj said as he presented the package at the start of the session, saying it is estimated at EUR 550-600 million.

Among other things, solidarity bonuses are to be paid out to pensioners, students, families and those whose salaries are below two minimum wages.

Parents of children born up to a year after the epidemic had been declared over will get EUR 500, religious workers are to get monthly basic income at EUR 700 a month for October-December 2020, and aid has been earmarked for farmers with low income.

The committee however threw out a provision under which the state would cover contributions for religious workers permanently.

Compensation of fixed cost of companies is being doubled to EUR 2,000 per employee per month.

The package also raises hourly pay for those working with Covid-19 patients in public health and care facilities by 30%, while those with high exposure are to get an additional 65%.

Moreover, micro, small and medium-sized companies will be able to get additional bank guarantees, while the package also extends aid to road passenger transport operators and loan repayment suspension, Šircelj said.

The package also earmarks funds for voluntary firefighters’ associations to the tune of between EUR 2,000 and 5,500.

The bill allows shops to open on Sunday, 3 January, an exception from the obligatory Sunday closure, so that they are not closed for three days in a row.