The government on Monday announced a new aid package for business owners totaling NIS 2 billion ($580 million) to help them weather the economic hardships brought about by the coronavirus pandemic — though with stricter conditions than previous aid packages.
In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz said businesses with a turnover of up to NIS 20 million ($5.8 million) a year, who lost at least 60 percent of their regular revenue in May-June, will receive up to NIS 400,000 ($116,000) in compensation, and businesses with a turnover of up to NIS 100 million will receive the same compensation if they lost at least 80% of their regular revenue.
Smaller businesses, with a turnover of up to NIS 300,000 ($87,000), will also receive a new grant, though there were no exact details on its parameters.
Grants have so far been given in three tranches, to businesses that saw at least a 25% decline since the start of the crisis in Israel in March, compared to the same period last year. The two main tranches saw applicants receive up to NIS 16,500 ($4,800). A third gave coverage to businesses for regular expenses.
The applications of hundreds of thousands of Israelis for the grants were approved.
The Tax Authority distributed the funds, and self-employed Israelis could apply on its website.
No details were yet available on how to apply for the new stipends.
The coronavirus pandemic largely shuttered Israel’s economy for some two months. Businesses have largely reopened over the past month, but many continue to struggle with severely reduced work.
Israel’s unemployment rates also remain very high, at 21.2% — only somewhat better than the 27.8% peak at the height of the pandemic. These include some 862,000 unemployed and 605,000 on unpaid leave. In February, unemployment had been at a record low of 3.4%.
Meanwhile, the number of daily infections has been steadily climbing since lockdown rules were eased in May, with cases diagnosed across the country.
The Health Ministry on Monday evening said it had recorded 637 new coronavirus cases since the previous evening, bringing the total number of infections in Israel since the start of the pandemic to 24,276.
According to the ministry, there are 6,768 active cases, with 43 people in serious condition, including 24 on ventilators. Another 59 people are in moderate condition and the rest have mild or no symptoms. The death toll remained 319.
On Sunday Health Minister Yuli Edelstein warned that the country was at the “beginning of a second wave.”
Also Monday, a program was launched to carry out tens of thousands of serological tests aimed at determining the extent of the population’s exposure to the coronavirus. Tests on blood samples will identify antibodies to the coronavirus, which can be present in the blood of those who caught the virus but did not develop any symptoms.
The antibody tests are seen as a key component in finding out who already had the disease in order to better understand its spread and shape policy.