March 24, 2020 / 8:30 PM / 2 months ago

Czech parliament approves coronavirus emergency aid package

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech parliament’s lower chamber approved a package of emergency government measures on Tuesday that included temporary tax relief for self-employed workers as the government seeks to ease the economic strain from the new coronavirus outbreak.

The chamber also passed the finance ministry’s proposal to raise this year’s planned deficit of the central state budget five-fold to 200 billion crowns.

The lawmakers — who wore facemasks during the vote — approved the plan to give the self-employed a six-month holiday on payments into the state social and health systems.

The measures approved on Tuesday came as part of a fast-track procedure that now takes them to the Senate before heading to the president for his signature.

The government of Prime Minister Andrej Babis pledged last week to provide 100 billion crowns in direct aid and another 900 billion crowns in loan guarantees to companies.

The government has also launched a “kurzarbeit”, or short-hours, system in which the state contributes to workers’ wages at companies forced to halt or limit production in a bid to avoid layoffs.

Reporting by Robert Muller, Editing by Michael Kahn and Philippa Fletcher

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