Support measures for entrepreneurs in the Dutch Caribbean affected by the coronavirus

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Support measures for entrepreneurs in the Dutch Caribbean affected by the coronavirus

(PRESS RELEASE) – The government has decided to take exceptional economic measures because of the corona virus. The aim is, besides public health, to protect jobs and incomes and to reduce the consequences for employees, self-employed persons and companies. Measures for the Caribbean Netherlands are comparable to the measures for the European Netherlands.

Measures that could not be implemented 1 on 1 in the Caribbean Netherlands were replaced by measures that aim for achieving the same effects as good as possible.

Available measures for Caribbean Netherlands*:

* Please inform yourself well via the authorities mentioned at the bottom of this newsletter about the exact content of these measures, as well as the conditions.

1. Labor costs scheme for employers

As an employer, you can receive a contribution towards the wage costs of employees that you cannot keep (in full) at work because of the corona virus. There must be a loss of turnover of at least twenty percent due to the coronavirus, with the result you cannot keep your staff (fully) working. With an award, eighty percent of the employee’s wages are paid over the hours he or she cannot not work for you. The scheme is implemented by the SZW unit on Bonaire.

2. Wage costs scheme for self-employed persons

As a self-employed person, you can apply for temporary support if you have less income due to the coronavirus, and meet a number of conditions such as: you normally spend at least 24 hours a week on your company, you have the full authority of the company and bear the financial risk thereof, both your company and you are located in the Caribbean Netherlands, your company was registered with a Chamber of Commerce in the Caribbean Netherlands before 13 March 2020, your total income has dropped to less than $761 per month for Bonaire, $919 per month for St. Eustatius or $907 per month for Saba. The scheme is implemented by the SZW unit on Bonaire.

3. Compensation Affected Entrepreneurs Dutch Caribbean (TGO-CN)

This cabinet measure, previously known as the ‘Noodloket’, is for entrepreneurs who are directly affected by the measures that have been implemented in the context of the corona crisis. Businesses receive a one-time $4,400 allowance to pay their overhead costs. The scheme is implemented by the SZW unit on Bonaire.

4. Extension of the scheme ‘Guarantee for Entrepreneur Financing’ (GO)

This scheme is intended for larger companies. The extension means that the loans may amount to a minimum of €1.5 million and a maximum of €150 million, of which 50% is guaranteed by the Dutch State. Credit institutions that are authorized to conduct the business of a bank in a member state of the European Union may participate as financier. The application must be made by the financier. The scheme is implemented by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) in The Hague.

5. Bridging loan BMKB

The temporary facility for financiers under the Guarantee SME scheme (BMKB) will be opened for the Caribbean Netherlands. Unlike in the European part of the Netherlands, the BMKB in the Caribbean Netherlands is also open to agricultural entrepreneurs, including the fishing sector and aquaculture. Under this scheme, the Ministry of Economic Affairs guarantees the loans to entrepreneurs, so that they can get credits more easily. Entrepreneurs can turn to lenders, such as banks. With this extension, the amount of the surety loan in the BMKB is increased from 50% to 75%. In addition, the scheme will be further expanded compared to the previous announcement (Thursday 12 March 2020) and will also be applicable to bridging loans and current accounts with a term of up to 2 years. The application must be made by the financier. The scheme is implemented by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) in The Hague.

6. Qredits

Qredits has opened a temporary crisis measure that charges a lower interest rate and offers postponement of financial repayment obligations to small entrepreneurs. The government supports Qredits financially with an additional amount of up to € 6 million in order to be able to offer the lower interest rate. The opening of this crisis measure will run until the end of May 2020. The regulation is being implemented by Qredits (see for addresses below).

On April 24, the government decided to take additional (generic) measures to support the Caribbean Netherlands. Below is a representation of some of these measures.

7. Water and electricity

In the case of electricity and water, the government is prepared to grant a deductible item in the account in the amount of the fixed connection rate from 1 May to the end of the year. For Saba, drinking water is about increasing the water capacity (cistern).

8. Telecom

For telecom, the government is also willing to grant a $ 25 deduction on the internet usage account until the end of 2020. In this way, a contribution is made to the poverty problem and the fact that an internet connection is essential for working from home and at home.

9. Connectivity

The government is committed to guaranteeing an acceptable level of (affordable) connectivity of the islands and tariffs to support the local economy. The government has therefore decided to improve the ferry connection between Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten. The proposal is to reduce the rates compared to the current ferry connection and to increase the sailing frequency for a period of two years. Residents can move more often and cheaper. The estimated costs for this are € 2 million (€ 1 million per year).

The granting of the concession is carried out locally and several parties are involved. With this pilot, data can be made available that can be used to come to a more structural solution. While this pilot is running, the government, in consultation with the islands, can also investigate the possibilities for affordable air connections in the long term.

10. Tourism

The windward islands, and especially Saba and St. Eustatius, are hit hard by the crisis. The islands are largely dependent on tourism. With a good and affordable ferry, it is expected that tourists from the region will visit the islands more often after the lockdown.

The corona crisis will lead to an economic downturn worldwide, while the tourism sector will not be spared. Good marketing is therefore all the more important to put the Caribbean Netherlands on the map and tourists again

to get back to the islands. Changing marketing strategy, for example more towards sustainable (eco) tourism with higher added value, can be a good choice in changing markets. The government would like to assist the islands with advice and assistance, for example in creating and introducing new marketing strategies.

* Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius are the only islands in the Caribbean that have an official recognition for their tourism sustainability: Quality Coast Silver. See for more information: http://collection.greendestinations.org/

A complete overview of the coronavirus measures in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom can be found on the website of the national government.

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