April 28, 2020 / 2:07 PM / in a month

Slovakia approves using 1.2 bln euros of EU funds to cope with coronavirus

BRATISLAVA, April 28 (Reuters) - The Slovak government approved on Tuesday shifting 1.2 billion euros from unspent EU funds — or about 1.3% of the country’s gross domestic product — to compensate for the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The government will use more than 500 million euros to protect jobs, almost 250 million euros to fund healthcare and 330 million euros to help small businesses, Deputy Prime Minister Veronika Remisova said at a televised press conference.

The European Commission allowed a more flexible use of the unspent EU funds earlier in April.

Slovakia has already approved several packages to help businesses and employees affected by the coronavirus crisis.

The first, approved in late March, was aimed at small businesses forced to shut because of restrictions imposed by the government or experiencing falling revenues. It was worth up to 1% of GDP every month.

The government later expanded help to big companies, which Finance Minister Eduard Heger estimated at additional 0.2% or so of GDP per month.

Although Slovakia has a low number of coronavirus cases and deaths compared with its neighbours or Western European countries, the centre-right government of Prime Minister Igor Matovic wants to proceed cautiously to protect lives and health of citizens.

The government reopened small shops of up to 300 square metres, outdoor market places and sports grounds as well as restaurants selling takeaway meals last Wednesday.

Stage two includes opening short-term boarding houses, hairdressers, taxi services and allowing religious services and weddings with a limited number of participants. It is expected to start on May 6 but is subject to approval by a team of public health experts.

Reporting by Tomas Mrva

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