New French state help for struggling small businesses
New loans are now available to help hospitality and tourism businesses in France affected by the health crisis, including gîtes, campsites and B&Bs.
The government is also working on other measures to help small firms, such as encouraging banks to invest in them. The new loan is called PGE Saison – a form of state-guaranteed loan (PGE) – and will allow businesses to borrow more than they could under a regular government loan.
Nicolas Dayot, president of the camping industry body FNHPA, said the loan was well-timed. It should allow firms to support their late summer bookings, keep staff paid, and stay afloat during the winter. It is available in addition to other government funding, and repayments can be spread over one to five years. It will take into account your three best months from 2019.
The application differs, depending on the number of employees and on turnover. For details see tinyurl.com/y2gnnkaz and tinyurl.com/y59z8qgu.
Industries hit hard by Covid-19
Mr Dayot said his industry had been less catastrophically hit than some areas of hospitality, and bookings had been strong for August and September. Even so, turnover was down 20-25% compared to last year. Along with gîtes and chambres d’hôtes, lost foreign bookings were somewhat compensated for by the French holidaying at home.
Gîtes de France managing director Solange Escure said most members had received no government help so far, notably because most gîtes are not declared as separate businesses. “For some, this is a large part of their income and they are obviously badly affected, especially as they had no one at Easter, the traditional start of the season.”
She said an exceptional summer enabled many to catch up on lockdown losses, with estimates for the year ranging from down 5% to down 25%. Those in the north had now been affected by cancelled bookings due to the renewed UK quarantine.
Reader Monica Moriyasu, who has a gîte business in the Charente, has had a cancellation but said French and other EU visitors compensated to some extent for fewer Britons, and the shorter season had helped manage the extra cleaning required under coronavirus rules. “It is a challenge for those who are entirely dependent on this for their income,” she said. “Thankfully, we are not.”
The government now plans further measures to help small firms, including encouraging banks to turn some of their loans into long-term stakes in businesses that are having difficulty with repayments. Economists estimate up to 10% of those which have so far received PGEs from banks are having trouble restarting after the lockdown and are likely to fall behind.
Small business body FTPE welcomed the measure, while pointing out that some existing government help, such as adjustments to monthly payments for the CVAE and CFE business taxes, applied only to firms with income levels far above those of most very small businesses (defined as having fewer than 10 employees).
President Viviane Chaine Ribeiro said they would like more flexibility between using chômage partiel, where employees are temporarily laid off but have most of their salaries paid by the government, and having employees back at work but with fewer social charges on their salaries. They would particularly like a reduction to the employer’s part of the social charges for workers on up to 1.6 times the Smic minimum wage to be allowed up to double the Smic. For loans, the federation would like repayments to be put back five years instead of being spread out over five years.