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Layoffs and cutting costs... companies are trying to adapt as the coronavirus hits demand/AFP

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No layoffs, reduced rent: ‘Italian cure’ for pandemic

Layoffs and cutting costs… companies are trying to adapt as the coronavirus hits demand/AFP

ROME, Italy, Mar 18 – Companies are prohibited from laying off workers and rents are reduced under Italy’s economic survival plan for life at the European epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hailed his 25-billion-euro ($28-billion) programme as the “Italian model” that the rest of Europe could adopt as it imposes its own painful lockdowns.

Italy’s 2,503 official COVID-19 deaths account for more than half of those reported outside China.

“When we talk about the Italian model, we are not only talking about health but also the economic response to the crisis,” Conte said while unveiling his “Cura Italia” (“Italian Cure”) plan at the start of the week.

Other European countries will probably never take on all 127 points Conte – a former law professor – and his team of technocratic ministers drafted during Italy’s gravest emergency since World War II.

But here is a broad look at some of the measures outlined in the 72-page decree Italian President Sergio Mattarella signed on Tuesday night.

Worker rights

Companies are prohibited from laying off workers for the next two months without “justified objective reasons”.

The self-employed and seasonal workers such as tour guides can expect a 600-euro ($680) payment for the month of March to help cushion the pain of lost business.

The government will also cover 100-euro bonuses for low-wage employees.

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Baby sitters

Families are issued 600-euro vouchers to cover the expense of having to hire baby sitters to look after kids that will be out of school at least until April 3.

The Italian government said Wednesday that its month-long shutdown of everything from kindergartens to private universities might run well into next month.

The self-employed who have to look after their kids will receive “parental leave” payments that cover half of their declared monthly incomes.

These payments can also be calculated on a daily basis.

Rent and mortgage

Conte shut down all forms of business except for pharmacies and grocery stores for two weeks starting on March 12.

The government is compensating shop owners by offering them tax credits to cover 60 percent of their March rent payment.

The self-employed and freelancers with home mortgages can ask to have their payments suspended for up to 18 months if they can prove that their incomes fell by a third.

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Taxes

A variety of taxes and salary withholdings are being suspended for sectors and professions deemed most affected by the crisis.

An existing list has been expanded to include everyone from truck drivers and hotel staff to cooks and clerks.

The government expects to start collecting the taxes again in May.

Politics and prisons

A variety of other measures affect issues ranging from prison to politics and sport.

A planned national referendum to cut the number of parliament members has been postponed until the second half of the year.

The government is sending 20 million euros to repair the damage caused to prisons by rioters who were anxious about the new disease.

Italy’s sport federations get four-month tax privileges and 130 million euros will go to support film and cinemas.

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