The Council today adopted two legislative acts on the immediate release of funds from the EU budget to tackle the COVID-19 crisis. One of the acts amends the rules of the Structural and Investment Funds, while the other extends the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund.
The Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative will give Member States access to EUR 37 billion in cohesion money to strengthen the healthcare systems, as well as to support small and medium-sized businesses, short-term work programs and community services.
Of the total, some EUR 8 billion will come from unused pre-financing in 2019 under the Structural Funds. The new measure allows Member States to spend unused money to mitigate the impact of the pandemic instead of returning it to the EU budget. A further EUR 29 billion will be disbursed earlier than the credits would have been paid later this year.
The expenditure will be available from 1 February 2020 to cover the costs already incurred in the efforts to save lives and protect citizens.
Member States will also have more flexibility to transfer programs between cohesion policies, to redirect resources where they are most needed.
The Council has also amended the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to include public health emergencies in addition to natural disasters. This will help Member States and accession countries to meet the immediate needs of the people during the coronavirus pandemic.
The next steps
Given the urgency of the situation, both pieces of legislation will be published in the Official Gazette of the European Union on 31 March and will enter into force on 1 April 2020./ibna