Council gives go-ahead for instant release of funds

Making available money to help mitigating the effects of the pandemic

The Council adopted on Monday two legislative acts, proposed by the Commission, to quickly release funding from the EU budget for tackling 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 EU states access to €37bn of cohesion money to strengthen healthcare systems, as well as support small and medium-sized enterprises, short-term working schemes, and community-based services. Almost €8bn of this money will come from unspent 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. Another €29bn will be disbursed early from allocations which would have been due later this year.

Spending will be made available as of 1 February 2020 to cover costs already incurred in efforts to save lives and protect citizens. EU countries will also have greater flexibility to make transfers between cohesion policy programmes in order to redirect resources to where they are most needed.

The Council 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 meet people's immediate needs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The EU Parliament backed both acts during its special plenary on 26 March. The new acts will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 31 March and will enter into force on 1 April this year.

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