COVID-19: Spain’s parliament passes $13B relief package

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OVIEDO, Spain 

Spain’s parliament passed an €11 billion ($13 billion) relief package on Thursday, as new coronavirus infections rose slightly.

“We still have tough weeks ahead and have to continue helping workers, businesses and the self-employed,” said Economy Minister Nadia Calvino.

The package passed by an unusual landslide, just 50 lawmakers voted against it while 290 supported it or abstained. Several politicians, however, criticized the aid for being “too little, too late.”

The largest chunk of the package – €7 billion ($8.3 billion) – will go directly to small businesses and self-employed workers who have lost at least 30% of their income amid the pandemic.

Spain’s island regions will receive almost 30% of the direct payments, as their economies have been particularly battered by the lack of tourism. In 2020, 27% of the Balearic Islands’ economy was wiped out, whereas in the Canary Islands, it plummeted by around 20%, according to the Bank of Spain.

Another €3 billion ($3.6 billion) will be given to companies to restructure their debt, while the remaining €1 billion will be used to create a fund to strengthen medium-sized businesses.

The country did create a €200 billion ($235.5 billion) stimulus package last spring, although a large part of that included loans and only around half came from the government.

Spain has been one of the hardest-hit countries by the pandemic. In 2020, the national economy contracted by 11%.

The new relief package comes as Spain faces a fourth wave of coronavirus infections.

The Health Ministry reported 6,393 new cases, up 177 compared to the same day last week. While cases remain relatively low, the increasing trend has many worried as Easter holidays begin next week.

Meanwhile, another 356 COVID-19 deaths were reported, bringing Spain’s official death toll close to 75,000.

The country’s vaccination rollout remains relatively slow. The country has administered 6.8 million doses in total. Of the 47 million people who live in Spain, just 2.4 million are fully immunized.

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