A comprehensive overview of all emergency measures 20 March

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A comprehensive overview of all emergency measures 20 March

Political agreement between the the political partieson the first phase financial emergency measures to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Norway  Date: 16.03.2020 at 08.45 h.  

Koronakrisen

A comprehensive overview of all emergency measures 20 March

Date 20 March 2020
Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Prop. = Government proposal on emergency measures 13 March. Prop. 52 S (2019 – 2020) and Prop. 53 LS (2019–2020)

Agreed = Political agreement between the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Progress Party, the Centre Party, the Socialist left Party, the Liberal Party, the Christian Democratic Party, the Green Party, and the Red Party (hereinafter the political parties) on the first phase financial emergency measures to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Norway  Date: 16.03.2020 at 08.45 h.  

FinCom = The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs recommendation dated 19 March on financial emergency measures to mitigate the impact of the virus outbreak

20 March Prop. 57 S Preliminary calculations of crisis costs

  • Estimated changes to the non-oil budget deficit 2020 because of the financial emergency measures and changed economic prospects. In billion NOK. NB! Highly uncertain estimates.

Source Ministry of Finance Prop. 57 S 20 March 2020.

Counter loss of revenue for companies

Counter loss of revenue for individuals

Strengthening the health sector, local governments and the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV)

Other compensation schemes

Civil aviation, incl. bad debt provision for guarantee scheme

Bad debt provision, State loan guarantee scheme via the banks

Sum Financial Emergency Measures

Automatic stabilizers (important changes in estimates other than the effects of political measures)

Reduced tax revenue

Increased expenses for unemployment benefits

Increased sick pay

Sum Weakening of the Budget Balance

Adequate means to first line crisis management

FinCom

  • «Stortinget asks the Government to ensure that critical functions and other public entities tasked with managing the practical consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, including local governments, the health services and Nav, have access to the resources needed to carry out their responsibilities.»

Layoffs

Prop.

  • Reduced mandatory employer’s pay period during layoffs from 15 to 2 days and elimination of waiting days.
  • The threshold for laid off workers’ right to unemployment benefits is lowered from a 50 % reduction of working hours to 40 %.

Agreed

  • Full pay up to 6 G (National Insurance basic amount 1 G = NOK 98 866) for a minimum of 20 days from the date of the layoff, of which the State will cover days 3-20.
  •  

Unemployment benefits for workers laid off due to the Covid-19 crisis

Agreed

  • The minimum income requirement is reduced from 1,5G to 0,75G.
  • The compensation level increases to 80% of earned income up to 3G, and to 62,4 % of the basis of calculation for unemployment benefits exceeding 3G, and up to 6G after day 20 of the layoff period.

Apprentices

Agreed

  • Apprentices who lose their apprenticeship in connection with the virus outbreak are to be ensured an income on a par with their apprentice pay.

FinCom

  • Stortinget refers to decision no 38 of, Monday 16 March 2020, to secure apprentices an income and expressly states that this also applies to apprentices who are laid off.

Care benefits

Agreed

  • Care benefit amounts are doubled. The increase applies to all caregivers, including single parents and those who provide care to children with special needs.
  • The mandatory employer’s pay period for care benefits is reduced to 3 days.
  • New scheme entitles self-employed and free lancers to care benefits from day 4 pursuant to the same rules as for wage earners, with the same percentage as for sick pay for self-employed persons.

FinCom

  • Institute a right for caregivers to transfer their benefit to the other caregiver or guardian in families whose members are on the Government’s list of key staff or in critical social functions and who must work because of the epidemic. 

Sick pay

Agreed

  • The mandatory employer’s period for sick pay due to the corona epidemic is reduced to 3 days.
  • Self-employed persons and free lancers are entitled to sick pay from day 3 of their absence from work with the same coverage as under already existing rules.

Self-employed persons and free lancers

Agreed

  • Temporary scheme for self-employed and free lancers who now lose all or part of their revenues because of the corona epidemic. They will now be entitled to a compensation of approx. 80 % of their average income over the past 3 years, with a ceiling of 6G. The compensation runs as of the 17th day of loss of income.
  • Self-employed and free lancers are entitled to sick pay from day 3 of their absence with the same coverage as under already existing rules.
  • Care benefit scheme for self-employed and free lancers who are now entitled to care benefits as of day 4 pursuant to the same rules as for wage earners, with the same percentage as for sick pay for self-employed persons.

Pensions

Prop.

  • Pension rules are amended so that retired health workers ordered to work or who voluntarily re-enter service in connection with the virus outbreak continue to receive their full regular pension payments while in paid service.

Competency

Prop.

Strengthening support to upskilling and in-house training in companies affected by the virus outbreak, through increased block grants to the county administrations.

FinCom

  • County administrations must make use of the BIO funds (in-house training) and ensure that workers can benefit from the scheme as soon as possible.

Local Governments

Prop.

  • An increase of discretionary funds by NOK 250 million to municipalities that have incurred substantial extra expenses in connection with the virus outbreak.

FinCom

  • Municipalities and county administrations need to be compensated for unreasonable consequences of loss of tax and other revenue and extraordinary expenses caused by the need to manage and prevent infections and the change in economic developments after the national budget was approved.
  • Critical services, including services to particularly vulnerable children and youth, and emergency assistance to families with heavy care burdens, the child protection services, and crisis centres are to be ensured reasonable operation.

Health

Prop.

  • To ensure that health authorities have the necessary means to handle the situation, the Government has activated the enabling provisions in the Health Emergency Response Act.
  • The specialist health service and the municipal health and care services will incur greater expenses because of increased emergency response measures, test analysis and patient treatment. They are authorised to incur unforeseen and necessary expenses to help the population have access to the necessary medication and medical equipment and ensure the necessary laboratory analysis capacity without having to secure in advance the necessary budget appropriation. The Government will propose to Stortinget extra budget allocations at a later stage, to ensure activities can be maintained throughout the fiscal year.

FinCom

  • Hospitals need to be ensured adequate funding in their planning of measures to counter the Covid-19 pandemic and to strengthen intensive care capacities. Hospitals and other entities in the health sector must be reimbursed for their unforeseen and necessary expenses throughout the contingency period.
  • The Directorate of Health and the Institute of Public health must be ensured adequate funding.

Companies and industries

Taxes

Prop.

  • Amending the tax rules allowing companies that operate at a deficit may write back their deficit against profits taxed in previous years.
  • Reducing the low VAT rate to 8 %. The new rate enters into force as of 1 January 2020.
    • 57 S 20 March: Low VAT rate reduced from 12 to 8 percent as of 20 March 2020 to and including 31 October 2020. The low VAT rate applies to passenger transport, accommodation, public broadcasting, cinema tickets, museums, amusement parks and large sports events.

FinCom

  • Would like to see a temporary lowering of the employer’s National Insurance Contribution by 4 percentage point for one quarter, equivalent to two months. Compensations to the public sector for effects of the Covid-19 pandemic should take account of the value of the differentiated employers’ contribution.
  • Compensation to Finnmark and Nord-Troms, who have a zero employers contribution rate, is NOK 250 million for an equivalent period.
  • Would like to see proposals that ensure reduced fares on national road ferries for a limited period.

Prop. 57 S 20 March

  • The deadline for paying in the employer’s National Insurance contribution is deferred from 15 May to 15 August 2020. The deferment also applies to the wage part of the financial activity tax.

Credit and guarantees

Prop.

  • The loan and guarantee schemes of Innovation Norway may relieve companies that experience liquidity problems. Innovation Norway’s low risk credit, innovation loans and guarantee schemes are considered the most relevant to companies that experience temporary liquidity squeezes.
  • The funds for these credit schemes are committed only to a very limited degree and available credit lines would be substantial. The low risk credit has a ceiling of NOK 2.5 billion, while the innovation credit scheme has a ceiling of NOK 1.4 billion. The growth credit line would, if cooperation with private banks, be able to fund loans totalling approx. NOK 1 billion in 2020.

15 March

  • NOK 100 billion in guarantees and loans to assist companies in crisis.
  • State loan guarantee for new bank loans to SMBs.
  • Re-establishment of the State bond fund.

 

  • 57 S 20 March: The State guarantee scheme for SMBs is secured a facility of 50 billion NOK. Each loan is backed by a State guarantee of 90 percent. Maximum credit line for each company is 50 million NOK.
  • The State bond fund is re-established to improve access to credit for Norwegian companies and to contribute to a smoothly functioning market for credit bonds. The National Insurance Scheme Fund is tasked with the practical implementation. The facility has a 50 billion NOK ceiling.

Agreed

Stortinget will, furthermore, ask the Government to:

  • Establish State loan guarantees for all affected industries.

FinCom

  • The minority (all opposition parties) proposed expanding the growth guarantee scheme, so that the State covers an adequate part of the banks’ risk in relation to liquidity loans to SMBs.
  • The minority also proposed instituting guarantee schemes for expanded credit lines to tourism and travel companies.
  • The minority wanted to prepare for a temporary freeze of all Innovation Norway loans, granting companies deferred amortisation on their loans and no accrual of interest and bank charges on deferred amounts.
  • The minority also asked the Government to ensure that Innovation Norway’s maximum limits on lending and grants are expanded and to allow the institution to use risk loans and grants to better meet companies’ liquidity needs in the current situation. This should, as far as possible, be coordinated with banks/financial institutions.

Ownership

FinCom

  • The majority (The Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party, the Centre Party, the Progress Party and the Red party): «Stortinget asks the Government to prepare for the State, should the need arise, to acquire equity interest in particularly important Norwegian companies to safeguard national ownership.»

 

  • In addition, a minority (the entire opposition) proposed that Stortinget ask the Government, at the latest in connection with the Revised National Budget, to ensure a spread of ownership and safeguard national ownership through loan and support schemes.

Dividends, wages and salaries in companies covered by State emergency measures

  • A unanimous Committee strongly calls on the State to facilitate spending substantial resources to help Norwegian enterprises through the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Committee assumes that companies benefiting from of the State emergency measures, including State-backed loans, State bond financing or liquidity facilities during the remaining maturity do not pay out dividends for private use. The Committee further assumes that companies show restraint in salaries and bonuses. Companies are expected to exercise wage moderation while the State facilitates their ongoing operations in the current crisis.

 

  • The minority (a unanimous opposition) wants companies benefiting from State credit guarantees, State bond financing or liquidity facilities in State loan schemes to commit to a ceiling on remuneration to executives in corporate management and other group executives in 2020 and 2021, for example through a zero increase condition.
  • The minority (a unanimous opposition) wants a limit on dividend payments in companies that benefit from State loan guarantees, State bond financing or liquidity facilities during the remaining maturity.

Civil aviation

Prop.

  • Temporary suspension of the passenger tax for flights taking place from 1 January 2020 to and including 31 October 2020.
  • Temporary suspension of all airport taxes until and including 30 June 2020.

Agreed

Stortinget will, in addition, ask the Government to:

  • Take the necessary steps to secure critical infrastructure, including civil aviation.
  • Compensate private airports for the loss of airport taxes.

18 March press release from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries:

  • As a consequence of the Covid-19 epidemic, the Government temporarily exempts the transport industry from the prohibition in the Competition Act on agreements between undertakings that restrict competition. This allows, inter alia, SAS and Norwegian to coordinate their flight schedules.

 

FinCom

  • The majority (Labour, Socialist Left, Centre and Progress parties): «Stortinget asks the Government to compensate airlines operating FOT air routes (subsidised routes with guaranteed public purchase of tickets to uphold service to unprofitable destinations) for the difference between lost revenues and non-incurred costs on FOT flights that results from the Covid-19 pandemic, and to disburse FOT subsidies in advance every month until further notice.»
    • 57 S 20 March: Purchase domestic air routes that are not commercially viable, 1 000 million NOK.

 

  • A minority (Labour, Socialist Left, Centre and the Red parties) also proposed to temporarily exempt airlines from all airport charges as of 1January 2020 until further notice, and to ask the Government to present a proposal for necessary compensation to Avinor (the airport management group) in the Revised National Budget for 2020.

19 March press release from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries:

  • Labour, the Conservative, the Progress, the Centre, the Liberal and the Social Christian parties have agreed to propose a State loan guarantee of up to 6 billion NOK to airlines that hold Norwegian operating licences. These emergency measures aim to help companies have access to market finance. The parties also agree on ensuring a minimum level of air services in Norway.
  • The Government proposes to establish a State loan guarantee totalling 6 billion NOK, of which 3 billion are allocated to Norwegian, 1.5 billion to SAS and the remaining 1.5 billion to Widerøe and other airlines.
  • The guarantee scheme will be organised through the Norwegian Export Guarantee Agency (GIEK). The State contributes with 90 percent of the guarantee, provided external banks, credit institutions and other commercial partners put up the remaining 10 percent.
  • Companies need to satisfy solvency requirements to make use of the loan guarantee. For companies that did not have an equity-to-assets ratio of minimum 8 percent at the end of the last quarter reported before the Covid-19 crisis, financial creditors need to waive interest payments and defer instalments for at least 3 months for companies to gain access to guarantees. In addition, these companies must institute emergency measures in the waiting period to further improve their balance.
  • SAS and Widerøe satisfy the solvency requirement. Norwegian will have access to an immediate facility of 300 million NOK. When and if the company is granted relief from interest payments and instalments by creditors, the company will have access to an additional 1.2 billion NOK. The balance of 1.5 billion NOK will become available when the company has increased their solvency to a satisfactory level.  
  • The guarantee scheme depends on approval from the EFTA surveillance Authority (ESA).

20 March prop. 57 S

  • The Government will endeavour to help Norwegians travelling abroad return safely home. The State will cover documented extra cost by maintaining until 31 March 2020 certain flights that airlines would otherwise have cancelled, in order to fly Norwegians home.
  • There will possibly be a need for Norwegian authorities to cover unforeseen transport needs related to medical equipment, infection control etc. It is therefore proposed that the State procure contingency services from the airlines so that capacity is available should domestic or international needs arise.

Social benefits

Agreed

  • Stortinget asks the Government to suspend activity requirements for social benefit recipients until further notice.
  • Stortinget asks the Government to ensure that the terms of fixed-term benefits, including work assessment allowances, are extended so that the lack of an assessment now does not shorten the three-year quota.  

FinCom

  • Rent subsidies: Changed timing of incomes resulting in temporary increases resulting from Covid-19 emergency measures will not be deducted from the rent subsidies.
  • Financial assistance to cover basic subsistence costs: The Committee refers to the Government’s announced proposal on instituting a new provision in Social Welfare Act making it mandatory for municipalities to provide income security for self-employed persons, allowing local governments to set aside regular requirements of resorting to own savings etc. before assistance is granted.

Bank of Norway

Decisions taken 13 March

  • Key rate cut by 0,5 percentage points to 1 percent.
  • Extraordinary F-loans to the banks.
  • The financial markets have been in turmoil over the past few weeks. The risk premiums in the Norwegian money market have risen considerably. To ensure that the key rate is reflected in the money market interest rates, Bank of Norway offers extraordinary three-months F-loans for as long as necessary. F-Loans will be granted in full at an interest rate equal to the at any time current key rate.

 (The F-loan is the primary instrument used to provide liquidity to the banking system. F-loans are granted against fixed-term securities with a floating rate of interest.)

19 March

  • The key rate cut by 0.75 percentage points to 0.25 percent.
  • Temporary USD liquidity schemes are established between important central banks.
  • Press release: Over the past few days extraordinary conditions have affected the NOK in the money market and fluctuations in the exchange rate have been at a historic high. Bank of Norway therefore considers, on an ongoing basis, whether to intervene by purchasing NOK.
  • Because of market conditions over the past few days, Bank of Norway will, as of 19 March 2020, offer additional extraordinary F-loans in NOK.
  •  

The financial sector

Buffer Capital

  • Bank of Norway advised on13 March that anti-cyclical buffer capital requirements be reduced to 1 percent.
  • The ministry of Finance resolved on 13 March to follow Bank of Norway’s advice to reduce the banks’ anti-cyclical buffer capital requirement from 2.5 to 1 percent with immediate effect.

Profit allocation in the financial sector

15 March letter from the Financial Supervisory Authority of Norway to banks and insurance companies

  • The Financial Supervisory Authority expects corporate boards to reconsider profit allocations as a consequence of the crisis and the uncertain financial situation. The Authority writes that it is important that banks be able to withstand substantial losses they may incur on loans in the foreseeable future while also having ample ability to grant fresh lines of credit to credit-worthy clients and extensions to credit-worthy clients that experience liquidity constraints.

Kindergartens and after-school care

17 March press release from the Ministry of Education and Research

  • Parents are exempted from paying for kindergarten and after-school care for as long as these facilities are closed because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Kindergartens are fully compensated for this loss of revenue by the State.

Compensations to organisers of cultural, sports and for not-for profit event organisers

17 March letter from the ministry of Finance to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs

  • The Government recommends that temporary schemes be instituted to compensate for loss ticket revenues/participants’ fees and applicable extra expenses incurred because of the order to cancel or postpone events. The scheme will amount to approx. 300 million NOK for cultural event organisers 600 million NOK for sports and other non-profit organisations.

FinCom

  • A minority consisting of Labour, the Socialist Left and the Centre parties, also proposes that the compensation scheme cover all enterprises, including vendors who, because of government restrictions on gatherings, incur losses and asks the Government to find appropriate ways to make sure effective losses incurred by organisers of cultural events are covered if the current situation caused by Covid-19 persists.
  • In addition, the minority proposes to prepare for compensation cultural institutions affected by cancellations due to Covid-19 and advice from health authorities, by more than 50 percent in public grants.
  •  

New Covid-19 Act – a temporary enabling Act

18 March proposition from the Government Prop. Key interest 56 L

The Government has presented a proposal for a «Temporary Act authorising the issuance of regulations to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak etc. (the Covid-19 Act)».

The authority to issue regulations is wide but can only be exercised to decree emergency measures because of the Covid-19 outbreak. The Bill is proposed to be provisional and expire six months after the date it enters into effect. Regulations shall be communicated to Stortinget as quickly as possible after their public announcement. Stortinget may at any time repeal the regulations fully or in part through a decision by at least one third of all votes present.

The Act could apply to a large number of policy areas. Below, we offer a description of some of the many examples described in the Proposition as possibly relevant.

  • Regulations on the use of labour etc.
    • There might be a need for provisional exceptions to the Working Environment Act and appurtenant regulations and, if applicable, possibly also special laws including the Maritime Safety Act and the Petroleum Act and appurtenant regulations in the area of HES.
    • Possibility of redeploying central Administration employees to entities with greater needs.
    • There might be a need for extended official duty or authority to order out on duty for employees other than health workers.
    • Regulations on overtime, working hours per 24 hours and week, and on rest periods and Sunday and bank holiday time off will, in the current emergency, prove too inflexible for some groups. If the social partners do not manage to agree on solutions, regulating said conditions it might prove necessary, based on the legal authority of the Bill.
  • Health
    • It might prove necessary to set aside time-limit provisions in the Patient and User Rights Act if hospitals need to prioritise patients in need of emergency or intensive Covid-19 treatment.
    • It might prove necessary to amend regulations on priorization of patients in the specialist health service.

 

19 March NTB-release reproduced in the national daily VG.no

  • Rapporteur Jonas Gahr Støre (Labour) will ask leading legal experts to consider the Government’s emergency enabling Bill. – I would like to have this Bill examined by leading legal experts to hear any adverse opinions and initiatives that they might have, especially as to the way it will be applied, says Støre to NTB.

20 March the Stortinget homepage

  • The first reading of the Bill takes place Saturday 24 March.

Svalbard

FinCom

  • Stortinget asks the Government to prepare a fixed-term crisis package for Svalbard because of the current and future impact of the Covid-19 virus on the population of Svalbard.

Higher education students

FinCom

  • The majority asks for a temporary scheme to be instituted as soon as possible through the Norwegian State Educational Fund for students who suffer loss of income due to the Covid-19 pandemic.