Coronavirus State Aid Plans Get Bloc Approval

Law360 (March 25, 2020, 9:15 PM EDT) -- European antitrust enforcers gave their blessing Wednesday to national government plans in the UK and Denmark to prop up industries and workers in COVID-19's wake.

Two UK plans and a Danish effort received approval under the European Commission's state aid rules, which are meant to guard against unfair economic support by individual countries' policymakers.

The separate UK state aid schemes aim to support small and medium-size enterprises affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The commission said the schemes won approval under the bloc's State Aid Temporary Framework, which passed March 19.

Despite Brexit, the UK by agreement remains under EU state aid rules during the transition out of the European Union.

One plan is a guarantee scheme, to meet a company's liquidity needs for the foreseeable future, up to six years. The EU said the plan contains safeguards to ensure that the borrowers get the advantages of the guarantee.

The other UK plan involves direct grants, with the support per company not exceeding 800,000 euros ($869,000). Grant amounts are linked to the market sector in which the company is active.

The two UK schemes are set to initially run through Sept. 30, but could be extended through Dec. 31.

"The commission concluded that the measures are necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state," the EU said in a Wednesday statement.

Also Wednesday, the antitrust watchdog approved a Danish state aid plan worth 1.3 billion euros ($1.41 billion) to help the self-employed through economic turmoil from the outbreak. The amount is roughly 10 billion kroner.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU's antitrust chief, said self-employed people are hit hard by the coronavirus spread. She noted in a Wednesday statement that under the scheme, Denmark will compensate up to 75% of the expected revenue losses, capped at DKK 23,000 (3,000 euros) per month and per person.

"The economic impact of the pandemic is severe," Vestager said. "In this context, the commission is working with all member states to find workable solutions, in line with EU rules."

--Additional reporting by Bryan Koenig. Editing by Peter Rozovsky.

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