In a plenary session at the Town Hall of La Oliva held on 11th November 2020, they approved requirements to help business owners overcome financial difficulties caused by COVID-19.
The local government has set 405.000 euros aside for this line of financial aid knowing that La Oliva is principally a tourist destination and travel restrictions have hampered business owners’ ability to operate as normal. There are other possibilities lined up for 2021 to provide “real solutions to real problems”.
The grant amounts to 800 euros per applicant, but preference will be given to those who are struggling the most (and can prove it). The net income for 2019 for those who are interested in applying must not exceed 50.000 euros and they must have continued their busines activity throughout the pandemic showing more than a 20% loss since the State of Emergency began, their activity must take place in the municipality of La Oliva and their registered tax address must also be in La Oliva.
This agreement must be published in the Provincial Bulletin of Las Palmas to allow the Town Hall to officially launch the grant around the 15th December 2020. More information will hopefully become available at that time.
TERRACE TAX: The same Plenary Session unanimously approved the suspension of Terrace Tax (commercial use of public areas) during 2021. The new government in power says they were unable to reduce the charge for 2020 so instead they adjusted it for the months the premises were closed.
INSUFFICIENT HELP DURING THE PANDEMIC’S SECOND WAVE: According to information released by ATA (Association for Sole Traders), each day there are 500 small businesses that close doors forever and these business owners as well as those who perhaps continue to struggle amidst the crisis feel that not enough is being done EIGHT MONTHS into the pandemic.
Although I’m sure the government has done and continues to do everything in its power to provide assistant to individuals and business owners alike, if you think about it, the measures in place allow for employees to be placed on furlough and for the business owners to receive a maximum of 661 euros per month, but is this enough? I could not imagine being in the hot seat and being responsible for passing legislation and making the tough decisions to ensure Spain’s stability at this uncertain time, but maybe it is time for further measures to be agreed…
The critics feel it is time to reraise the question about whether it is plausible for sole traders to contribute at Social Security in accordance to their income instead of a standardized rate calculated by the Administration as it is now. At present, the 661 euros per month financial aid is based on a general calculation that has nothing to do with each individual’s standard of life.
What does this mean? Sole Traders contribute each month as per a Base Rate calculated by Social Security, whereas other European countries contribute in accordance to their income. In this current scenario, those who requested financial aid because the government initially shut down their business activity or because of decreased revenue receive monthly benefits based on the Base Rate and not on their income. So, whether your business generates a monthly profit of 500 euros or 10.000 euros, the benefits received are the same.
This method has affected people at the top end of the spectrum because it is not the same to have monthly outgoings of 5.000 euros as opposed to somebody else’s outgoings of 2.000 euros and only receive 661 euros per month as this would not cover their living expenses. If however, they contribute every month according to their real income, their finacial aid could perhaps be calculated on the average over the past 12 months and the monthly benefits received would allow them to cover their expenses in line with their lifestyle.
Contributions based on real income is a double-edged sword. Even I can see the logistical issues with this and I have commented on this many times over the past few years. Sole Trader Associations have raised this problem on numerous occasions and although Social Security has agreed to consider the possibility, nothing has come of it. The only reason I can think of is that they cannot trust business owners to be honest and decare their real income. If the majority were to underdeclare, I believe we could effectively say “adiós” to the Spanish Social Security system as it exists now because there would not be sufficient funds available to cover unemployment, sick pay, not to mention pensions.
In light of the pandemic and how people have been forced to cope over the last eight months with limited resources, I feel it is only logical for this subject to be reopened and discussed in real terms, but I am not optimistic about a positive outcome simply because of the millions that have been spent from the budget this year alone. Yet, it must also be said that if the majority could be responsible and honest in their declarations, there is no reason why this couldn’t be a way forward and it may even encourage thousands more to register their businesses legally without the pressure of a minimum 286-euro monthly contribution before getting a chance to earn for themselves.
The Cabinet approved last Tuesday 28th April 2020 a transitional plan to a “new normal”, which will establish safety parameters to gradually lift restrictions. These new measures will be adapted to and will depend on how public health data evolves and how they are affected by restrictions being lifted.
Based on what I’ve read briefly on social media, there is a lot of confusion about the changes. I would like to clarify that TWO Orders were issued today, (1) applies ONLY to the islands of Formentera, la Gomera, el Hierro and la Graciosa and (2) to all other regions of Spain. Some people have read or heard about the restrictions that were lifted on these specific islands and thought they applied to everyone which is not the case.
All establishments, retail commercial premises and professional services whose activities were suspended after the State of Emergency was declared, with the exception of those premises that are over 400m2 as well as those within commercial centres, or within commercial centres where the establishment does not have a direct and independent access from the exterior of the building and as long as the following requirements are fulfilled: (a) An appointment system to guarantee only one customer per employee, however, a waiting area is not permitted in the interior of the commercial premise (b) Individual attention must be guaranteed each customer with the corresponding physical separation between them, and if this is not possible, counters or screens must be installed to accomplish this (c) A preferential schedule for over 65s must be established to coincide with the hours they are permitted to go outside
The measures detailed in this Order do not apply to those business activities and establishments that were permitted to open in line with the initial decree, as these may remain open under the same conditions from the start of the State of Emergency
All the establishments may put a collection system in place for customers to pick up their items, as long as this is staged to prevent groups of people gathering in and around the premises
Journeying to and from the establishments may only be done within the municipality of residence, unless the service or product cannot be found there
Establishments that open to the public must be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a day, paying special attention to most-used surfaces, such as door handles, counters, furniture, bannisters, dispensers, floors, phones, clothes hangers, trolleys, baskets, taps and similar objects. The surfaces must always be cleaned at theend of the day. Disinfectants such as diluted bleach (1:50) must be used or products approved by the Health Ministry. After each clean, the materials and equipment used for personal protection must be disposed of safely, after which hands must be properly washed. A midday clean (or part-way through the work day) is recommended. Work stations must also be cleaned and disinfected betwen shift changes, paying special attention to most used surfaces and shared equipment
Where there is more than one employee seeing to customers, the above cleaning measures must be extended to shared areas such as changing changing rooms, locker rooms, bathrooms, kitchens and rest areas
Uniforms (or clothes worn to work if there is no uniform) msut be washed daily on cycles between 60 and 90 degrees
Use of the establishments bathroom facilities is strictly prohibited, unless essential. After its use, they must be cleaned and disinfected IMMEDIATELY (toilet basin, sink, dispensers, taps, door handles…)
All establishments and premises must have bins available (preferably with a pedal actioned lid) to deposit tissues and any other disposable material. These bins must be cleaned frequently
Employees who are self-isolating due to contracting COVID-19, o those who are under house quarantine due to coming into contact with someone who either has the virus or is displaying symptoms, are not permitted to return to work
The business owner is responsible for ensuring safety measures are put into place to prevent furher contagion and must make sure employees are equipped with protective gear and that hand gel (as approved by the Health Ministry) is available at all times. The use of face masks will be obligatory when saftey distances of approximately 2 metres between staff and customers or between employees cannot be guaranteed. If there are security screens installed, this distance can be reduced to 1 metre. All personnel must be properly informed and instructed about the correct use of protective gear and procedures. The same applies for third-party employees that access the premises such as delivery services
Those companies that employ fingerprint devices to record when staff enter and leave the work place, must use an alternative system
Internal procedures, rotas, use of equipment etc., must be modified to adhere to new protocols
Some services such as hairdressers, beauty salons, physiotherapists and similar, cannot by nature maintain these safety distances, so they must make use of personal protective gear to ensure they are protected as well as the customer. A distance of at least 2 metres however must be maintained between each customer
The safety distances apply in common areas for employees (changing room, locker room, bathroom, break room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom etc)
If an employee begins to display COVID-19 related symptoms, the contact line for the Autonomous Region must be called and the employee must abandon the work place immediately, and must not be permitted to return until their medical status has been evaluated by a medic
Customers must not linger in establishments
A single employee is not permitted to simultaneously see to more than one customer at a time
Establishments must provide hand dispensers for customers and these must be placed at the entrance and be maintained for proper and hygienic use
Customers that go to establishments that have some type of autoservice are not permitted to use the equipment themselves. Instead, a member of staff must opérate the machines
Product samples may not be used
Clothing establishments must ensure the changing cubicles are used by one person at a time and they msut be cleaned and disinfected after each use. If a customer tries on items of clothing that they do not purchase, these items must be sanitized before being returned to the rack for another customer to try (In any case, I personally recommend washing any new items before storing them at home or wearing them, especially now)
Moving onto the Hospitality and Restaurant Sector:
Until now, these activities have only been permitted to operate as a delivery service, but now customers may phone ahead and collect their order from the establishment
No food may be consumed onsite
A preferential delivery service may be provided for over 65s, dependents or other vulnerable persons
When a customer wishes to pick up their order, they must either phone ahead or use an alternative no contact system. The establishment is responsible for advising customers of the pick-up time to prevent unnecessary groups of people in or around the establishment. An area must be set-up and clearly marked as the space where payment must be made and food collected. The necessary safety distances must be ensured or counters and screens installed
The establishments may only remain open to the public during the times when food can be collected
Hand sanitizer must be made available to customers upon entering the premises
A bin with a foot pedal actioned lid must be available upon the customer leaving the premises
Customers may not remain in the establishment longer than necessary to pay for and collect their orders
There must be clearly marked areas in those places that allow for more than one customer to be served at a time to ensure safety distances are visible. This can be done by placing tape on the floor, creating boundaries with some type of marker or signs. In any case, a single worker is not permitted to serve more than one customer at a time
If more than one customer cannot be served at the same time (if there are insufficient employees or maneuverability within the premise), access must be done individually unless an adult is being accompanied by somebody with a disability, a minor or a dependent
These are the measures outlined in the Order published on today’s date, that will come into effect from tomorrow Monday 4th May 2020, to allow those business activities that had been banned to operate once again under these limitations for health and safety purposes. If we all adhere to them, the quicker we will hopefully return to normal.
On another and very important note, the Government has issued assurances that those business who have employees on suspended contracts (ERTE) or those sole traders who have applied for or who are currently receiving benefits, will continue to do so even if they resume their activity based on this Order. The reason for this is because these benefits are to remain until the State of Emergency is lifted completely, but at present, only certain restrictions have been removed, but the State of Emergency itself is still in effect. I know this would have been a cause of concern for many of you, and I hope that the majority can reopen under these conditions. As you know, I normally post on these matters once the official decree or order has been published, but since this is an important issue, I felt it should be mentioned, however, when further information is released about retaining the rights to benefits etc., you can read about it here, so subscribe to my blog at www.canaryadminservices.com (fill you details out in the footer of any of the pages you access on my site and begin receiving email notifications every time I post).
As mentioned in my article posted on the 20th April 2020, the Canarian Government approved a decree on 2nd April 2020 stating their resolve to make up the balance of the benefits payable by the Central Government for Sole Trader Unemployment. The decree published by the Central Government confirmed payment of 70% of the Base Rate paid each month in Social Security Contributions (a minimum rate of 944,40 euros) which is why most of you have received a payment of 661,08 euros so far, but when I saw the first notifications approving some of my clients applications, my first question was, what about the 30% the Canarian Government promised to pay?
Following on from my previous article, I can now say the Canarian Government drafted an Order on 21st April which was published this morning as Order 21st April 2020, BOC Nr. 82. This Order details the requirements to apply for the missing 30% of Sole Trader Benefits for those business owners who were either forced to close doors on 15th March 2020, or who have since experienced decreased income of at least 75% in relation to the average income taken over the previous six months. The main points to take away from this Order are as follows:
A fund for an initial 11 million euros has been made available for this grant
This grant is not automatically payable, so although you may have been notified about provisional approval from the Central Government and received the 70% payment already, this grant is only given upon request
Only business owners whose registered tax address is in the Canary Islands are elegible to apply
These business owners must (1) have been registered as self-employed at Social Security on the date of the State of Emergency -14th March 2020- (2) must have a business activity that was suspended by article 10 of the Royal Decree that authorized the State of Emergency (3) must have received approval via the Mutua of their right to receive the 70% payment by the Central Government, either due to their activity been automatically closed or to a reduced income of at least 75% as stipulated in article 17 of Royal Decree-Law 8/2020, 17th March
To be up to date in all State and Autonomous Region tax obligations as well as Social Security contributions
To fulfil all obligations established under article 14 of General Grant Laws (Ley General de Subvenciones), which basically states the applicant meets all necessary requirements for said grant and can provide proof of this, can provide accounting books etc
Is registered at under the Economic and Financial Registry of the Canarian Government (this can be done at the same time the application is processed if necessary)
This grant is applicable to self-employed persons whose activity has been suspended in virtue of Royal Decree 463/2020, 14th March and for a maximum period of one and a half months from the date of the State of Emergency
Upon applying, the applicant allows the Administration to verify their situation at Social Security, the National Tax Office etc., although the applicant can refuse this authorization, but they would then have to provide the necessary proof themselves
The applicant must sign a Sworn Declaration stating whether they are in receipt of other grants, benefits etc as a result of the State of Emergency, or a declaration to the contrary saying they have not applied for or received other grants. Details of these other benefits/ grants must be provided
All applications will be processed by the Administration in order of arrival
The Administration will review the request and determine whether the applicant meets the requirements. They may also ask for additional documents to validate the application which much be provided within 10 days. If the paperwork is not received, the application will be automatically withdrawn
The Administration must resolve applications within three months from the date of receipt. This deadline may be increased under extreme circumstances, but generally speaking, if the applicant is not notified within three months, it is understood the grant has not been approved due to administrative silence
All applications must be sent and processed online via the Regional Employment Ministry (we’ll get to that later…)
The amount due will be determined by applying 30% of the Base Rate payable to Social Security. If the applicant does not reach the minimum contribution period to qualify for “unemployment” under normal circumstances, the amount due will be the equivalent of 30% of the minimum Base Rate.
This last point was one of the concerns I highlighted in my previous article because the 2nd April Decree only referred to the grant being calculated on the minimum Base Rate, but many business owners contribute at a higher Base Rate. This issue has therefore been answered positively in this Order. Regarding the stipulation about not qualifying for unemployment, generally speaking and outside the current COVID-19 crisis, to qualify for sole trader unemployment, the applicant must have specifically contributed the concept of “unemployment” within the 48 months prior to closure of business and in an uninterrupted manner during the twelve months immediately prior to closure.
As can be expected, falsification of details or circumstances will be penalized by the return of any payment received as well as interest due and possible fines, however, the Administration has four years by law to reclaim, so the applicant must preserve all documents that refer to their entitlement to this grant for the same period of time.
IMPORTANT NOTE:The Decree and this Order refer to an initial fund of 11 million euros; this may be increased if necessary, but only if additional funds can be made available for this purpose, but as I mentioned previously, this grant is a “first come first served” operation, so if the funds are depleted and additional funds are not approved by the Government, any applications that are received once money runs out will be automatically rejected.
Now for the part I said we would get back to… The Order states that all applications must be sent and processed via the Regional Employment Ministry‘s online platform, but this morning I checked and the procedure has not been habilitated on their website yet and nothing has changed upon writing this article this evening. The Order was drafted on 21st April, officially released today and comes into effect from tomorrow, Tuesday 28th April 2020, so perhaps the platform will be ready by morning…?
In any case, this is a completely different application to the Central Government and it is payable in a single payment, so a message to my clients: Please email me, if you would like to apply for this additional grant so the applications can be prepared as soon as possible and filed the moment the Regional Employment Ministry updates their online platform to receive petitions. If you are not a client of this consultancy (why not?) and you applied for the Central Government benefit via your own accountant, I would recommend you contact them asap to get this application underway if you want to claim.
UPDATE 28/04/2020: In my previous article, I mentioned a few issues I had with the available information, and since last night, I have been thinking further about the Order and there are still queries/ concerns about the way the document has been drafted, namely:
1. The use of the word “grant” or “subsidy” instead of “Benefit” as the Central Government has done. This implies that any monies received must be declared as income next year on your Personal Tax Return for 2020
2. The official Summons or Notice is still pending publication on the Platform that is supposed to receive and process these applications
3. There are a couple of contradictions in the text; in one instance, a requirement is to be registered under the Social Security system on the date of the state of emergency and in the very next paragraph, they say the applicant must have cancelled registration of their business activity as a result of the activity being suspended by Royal Decree. This does not make sense because a requirement for those who receive benefits from the Central Government is to remain “active” on paper. The whole point of this is to try to prevent sole traders from closing their businesses permanently and laying off employees
4. Another contradiction is that one one hand, they refer to the grant being based on those affected as per Article 17 of Royal Decree-Law 8/2020. This article speaks about business owners whose activity was suspended due to the state of emergency, as well as those whose income has significantly decreased by at least 75%. However, in another portion of the Order, they state that business owners whose activity is not listed as one of those that were automatically do not qualify. This statement would therefore, exclude those who have suffered a lower income, so again, there seems to be a discrepancy
5. The Order talks about a single payment, however, benefits payable by the Central Government will continue for the duration of the state of emergency. Since this is supposed to be a complementary payment to make up 100% of the Base Rate, shouldn’t the payments continue in line with the Central Government’s?
Further information may be available over the next few days to clarify some of the details included in this Order, and most of the Decrees and Orders published since the State of Emergency began have been followed up with clarifications and corrections which may be the case here.
There have been whispers about the progressive lift of restrictions and the possibility of extending lockdown measures until the end of May, so I imagine further news will become available about that shortly too.
Over the past few days, there has been more movement regarding financial aid for sole traders and business owners. Social Security confirms that on Friday 17th April 2020, 919.173 self-employed persons received payment in what is the first outlay of benefits that amounted to approximately 670,9 million euros. On 15th April, the record shows that 1.016.670 business owners have applied for this financial aid, so there are more payments on the way in case you have not received yours yet, but congratulations to all those who have, it must feel like winning the Golden Ticket from a Wonka Bar!
One very important detail that I noticed when I received the first notification that a client’s application had been approved was that it only confirmed payment of 661,08 euros. The Central Government stated in Royal Decree-Law 8/2020, 17th March that they would pay 70% of the base rate that determines how much Social Security we pay each month, so this amount coincides with that, however, the Canarian Government said it would pay the remaining 30% to all residents of this region. The minimum base rate is 944,40 euros, so where is the missing 283,32 euros?
While I have been reading through legislation and corrections on a daily basis from the Central Government, perhaps I have not been monitoring Canarian legislation quite as closely, but to be fair, they have been pretty quiet about financial measures since announcing they would pay the balance and nothing has been reported on the news either. Also, we (other professionals and I) thought that since the Mutuas have been charged with processing Sole Trader Unemployment Benefits, this would be automatically included once they approved the application, but this has not been the case, so I’ve been investigating the matter further.
The Canarian Government published a decree that has almost gone unnoticed (you’ll find out why in a minute), Decree-Law 4/2020, 2nd April and Article 3 confirms that 11 million euros has been made available to business owners who qualify. Upon reading the decree, the following stood out to me in particular:
1. Financial Aid will cover the missing 30% of the minimum base rate. What is my query here? Well, not everybody pays the minimum rate; some business owners contribute at a higher rate, so I’m not sure if they will be paid as per their contributions or whether it will be limited to the minimum.
2. The decree refers to this financial aid as a “grant” or “subsidy”, terms that are often used to help get new businesses off the ground, but these are not necessarily “free” if you can see what I’m getting at. The Central Government uses the expression “Social Security Benefit”, so it will be interesting to see whether any strings are attached to receiving this payment or not, but it is feasible that it will be done exactly at the President of the Canarian Government announced and I am overthinking the terminology that has been used as in Spanish there are other variations of the word “grant”.
I have contacted the Canarian Government to verify the procedure to obtaining the missing 30% since it has not been automatically added to the payments received. The response I have received so far confirms that although the Decree was authorized, additional steps such as how to apply for this financial aid, conditions etc have not yet been approved, but the Canarian Government hopes to publish terms and procedure next week (not guaranteed). I am still awaiting a response with regards to my concerns, but I imagine we will have to wait until a new decree is published to find out so watch this space.
For those whose application has been accepted, you are exempt from paying Social Security contributions until the State of Emergency comes to an end. However, the Administration still has the right to verify that you qualify for these benefits, so they may require additional paperwork to confirm, but to date, 97,3% of all applications have been approved without incident.
There is still one very important issue to discuss… what about Social Security contributions that were charged on the 31st March? Social Security did not implement measures prior to this date, which meant that everyone was charged a full month’s contribution, even who have had to close doors since 15th March. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, business owners in this situation are exempt. A tweet from their official account says that the contribution will be refunded without the need to apply, and further investigation indicates this will happen in the second half of May.
The retail sector has filed the majority of all applications (123.883) followed by the hospitality industry (112.854) and construction (68.560)
The worst affected autonomous regions are Andalucía, Cataluña and the Comunidad Valenciana.