At the press conference after the Executive Council meeting, the Minister of the Presidency and spokesperson for the Government, Meritxell Budó, explained that an exceptional procedure is adopted for extraordinary aids to confront emergency situations and the hight number of beneficiaries. When the administration manages these aids, the procedure of pre-registration will be incorporated before publishing the call, and this will provide it with the necessary information, assess with greater guarantees the possible beneficiaries and simplify the procedure.
The pre-registration procedure for freelancers will be managed through the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family and will be activated in the coming days, by issuing an order. The purpose of this measure is to provide tools to the administration to respond to the need for extra aids in a quick and efficient way, giving legal guarantees, and implying the least number of formalities possible for the administrator. The pre-registration will be similar as applying for the aids and data provided by the interested parties and treated as a responsible declaration. It will enable requirements assessment, subsequent extensions efficiency, simplify other calls with the same objective and characteristics, and information will be saved for one year. For Budó, the main goals of this system are to "be quick, easy and make resources available to the people immediately" and added that the Government "wants all aids to be transferred to the entrepreneurs before the end of the year”.
Finally, the new text establishes that these types of aids will be subject to subsequent control by the General Comptroller and it regulates the scope of application of this control and its effects. This Decree-Law also adopts other extraordinary measures with the aim to mitigate the impact of the restrictive measures in the sectors of hospitality, bars and restaurants and street or non-sedentary vending, one of the most affected sectors due to the suspension of its activity. The Decree includes a 100% bonus of the property transfer tax and documented legal actions, in the form of onerous transfers of property, for administrative concessions or comparable administrative actions that grant the private use of the public domain for certain activities accrued between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021.
The recipients are restaurants such as bars, restaurants and cafes with terraces on the public space, as well as the street vending sector. The purpose of the measure is to reduce the tax burden on those sectors that have been severely affected by the restrictive measures adopted to deal with the spread of the virus, such as limitations on public opening; capacity or mobility limitations; perimeter closure, among others. With the aim to administratively help bars and restaurants, the Decree enables the suspension of expiration dates for location permits and operating permits for type B recreational machines in hospitality and similar establishments as well as the registration of companies of game machines.
€3.5 million for youth facilities and €3 million for culture professionals
The Minister for the Presidency, Meritxell Budó, explained that another decree-law was approved including a series of complementary and urgent measures in youth facilities, cooperatives, culture, social entities and services in foster and adoption. This rule creates a new aid for youth facilities as an extraordinary measure to address the social consequences of COVID-19 endowed with €3.5 million. This aid is aimed at entities, companies and freelancers who are owners or managers of youth facilities. New aids for youth facilities are compatible with those previously created for youth facilities via Decree 41/2020 (promoted by the Ministry of Education at the time), with the difference that these new ones take into account the number of facilities owned or managed by the beneficiary, as well as the registered places in these spaces.
The changes also modify the applying process of aids to the cultural professionals and entities in the third sector, eliminating the chronological order, contemplating expanding the budget and prioritizing people with a lower income. The decree amends Decree Law 39/2020, of November 3, on extraordinary social measures to deal with the consequences of COVID-19, a Decree-Law that regulates extraordinary aid for professionals and performing arts techniques, visual arts, music and audio-visuals, and other cultural activities. In addition, it increases the budget allocated to these aids to €6.5 million, and it requires to apply within the deadline, provided that the requirements are met in accordance with the budget availability. In case that there is not enough budget allocation, and if the amount cannot be extended, the beneficiaries with a lower income will be prioritised. According to Budó, "procedure efficiency, application and payment of aids is guaranteed to professionals and technicians in the cultural sector in strong need".
The Decree-Law 42/2020 of November 10 is modified to provide support to the third social sector and the budget allocation is extended in case the initial credit of €3.5 million is spent with the applications that meet the requirements to be a beneficiary.
500 million euros more for health
The Catalan Government approves €500 million to alleviate the effects of Covid-19 pandemic in Catalonia. In this sense, the executive has authorized the transfer of budget credits from the 2020 budget.
At the same time, as previously announced by the Government, population screenings are being intensified this week to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in the country. "Mass screenings have already begun in municipalities in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, such as Badalona, Mataró, Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Sabadell, La Llagosta and Mollet". Other screenings are starting in municipalities in the regions of Lleida and Girona. In addition, Health will carry out weekly screenings at residences, sport clubs and PCRs with sample kits that citizens will pick up at pharmacies, a very similar screening system carried out for colon cancer. The Ministry of Health has also strengthened the tracking system with 500 professionals, among other measures.
Meanwhile, the Catalan Government is working on the COVID-19 vaccination strategy in Catalonia and has already bought 10 million syringes to be ready for the vaccination. An internal stable group has been working for weeks on this strategy in cooperation with the Ministry of Health.
€65.1 million for public transport for the expenses caused by COVID-19
Budó explained that the government has authorized a transfer of €65.1 million to mitigate the effects of the pandemic in different sectors. The amount comes from the Contingency Fund of the Ministry of Territory and Sustainability to confront the additional expenses of the public transport due to COVID-19.
These funds will be distributed among the Metropolitan Transport Authority (ATM) of Barcelona, Tarragona, Girona, Lleida, and the intercity bus transport service managed by the Directorate General of Transport and Mobility in order to alleviate the loss of income due to the drop in passengers and the increase in costs for the cleaning and security measures adopted against COVID-19. The service has been gradually adjusted and at present the offer is the same as before the pandemic, always adopting the recommendations of the health authorities, although the current level of demand for public transport is between 50% and 60% of its total capacity.
Government spokesperson Meritxell Budó: "We are working to hold elections with all public health and democratic guarantees"
In response to the journalists during the press conference and regarding the management of the pandemic, Minister Budó said that "we are working and assessing" the management of Christmas holidays. According to the government spokesperson, "each and every one of us needs to be responsible, wise and cautious when enjoying again the suspended activities, to avoid putting at risk our own health and that of the community". The Minister reminded that "we have a de-escalation plan we already explained and expected to move forward" as long as epidemiological data enables it. Budó says "we have the capacity and competences to make our decisions," but " we will continue attending the national Interterritorial Board". Budó explained that the Government is working together with the Spanish state to establish the prioritisation of the vaccination groups and that 350,000 doses of the vaccination will be received in January, which "would cover 175,000 people".
On February 14 elections in the Parliament of Catalonia, Budó said that "the aim of the government is to guarantee public health, the right to vote and ensure that information reaches everyone so people can freely decide their vote". The Government "listens to the Ombudsman and the various studies of the Institute for Self-Government Studies, all the reports of the Advisory Commission and everyone's recommendations", said Budó. "We work with the aim that these elections have public health and democratic guarantees" affirmed the spokesperson of the Government.
Regarding the possible concession of the third degree of political prisoners, Budó said "we hope they will be admitted to the third degree". "They have been locked up unjustly for more than 1,000 days" said the Minister who added "we demand their amnesty and immediate release".
Other government agreements
The Government approves the agreement to finance Barcelona Supercomputing Center until 2029. Through this agreement signed by the Ministry of Business of the Catalan Government, the Spanish Government and the Polytechnic University, the Government will provide more than €59 million for the operation of the great Catalan scientific and technical facility. This agreement will be decisive in the development of MareNostrum 5, one of the three last generation European supercomputers.
The Government has approved to sign the collaboration protocol between the Catalan Government and the governments of Euskadi, La Rioja and Navarra, for the promotion and dissemination of the Ignatian Way. The aim is to develop a diversified, sustainable and innovative tourism model, based on territorial balance, which highlights both the natural environment and the historical, architectural, religious and cultural heritage. In 2022 the Ignatian Way will celebrate its 500 years anniversary, since it recreates the itinerary that Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, did in 1522 from his hometown, Azpeitia (Gipuzkoa), to the Catalan city of Manresa.