Czech government extends jobs support for coronavirus-hit companies

PRAGUE, Aug 24 (Reuters) - The Czech government has extended its job support programme for coronavirus-hit companies until the end of October, Labour Minister Jana Malacova said on Monday.

The job furloughing scheme, together with direct compensation payments to the self-employed, represent the two biggest chunks of the government’s effort to help the economy hit by the global pandemic.

“(The government’s scheme) Antivirus (was) approved until the end of October,” Malacova said on her Twitter account.

In the two main legs of the Antivirus programme, the Labour Ministry has paid out 17.3 billion crowns ($785.72 million) as of Aug. 24, data on the ministry’s website showed.

“There are still companies which need help. But nothing lasts forever and we are mainly fine-tuning a permanent kurzarbeit to help in a crisis whenever needed. Like there is in Germany,” Malacova said.

Under the Czechs’ kurzarbeit scheme, companies get compensated for part of their workers’ salaries, enabling them to reduce the workload in order to save funds during the crisis.

A permanent programme could be implemented as of next year, Malacova told CTK news agency.

The Czech economy is expected to shrink by 8% this year, according to central bank forecasts. The main hit came in the second quarter, when the economy ground nearly to a halt under one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns. ($1 = 22.0180 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Alex Richardson)