Ministers debate relief for renters as over 200,000 firms lay off staff

A deserted El Corte Inglés store; thousands of their staff have had their contracts suspended.
A deserted El Corte Inglés store; thousands of their staff have had their contracts suspended. / EP
  • The biggest ERTE so far has been announced by El Corte Inglés for 29,500 people, 29 per cent of its workforce

The government is reportedly working on a package of measures to give people renting a break from payments, as well as other new moves for the most vulnerable during the crisis.

The plans come on top of those to help the economy announced last week and news that over one million people so far from more than 200,000 companies have been laid off and will be claiming temporary unemployment benefit.

Last week, the government said that people paying mortgages but seeing their household income drop a lot could apply to banks to temporarily delay mortgage payments under certain conditions.

This week, it looks likely that it will now approve measures for people that pay rent for their home or workplace at a Cabinet meeting in the coming days.

Unidas Podemos, minority coalition partners in government, have proposed that tenants should be allowed to hold off paying for an initial period of two months if affected. Owners of properties would receive temporary government support, from full cover to partial cover depending on how many properties they had. Some ministers are anxious to avoid harming people who depend on a letting income to live.

The government was also said to be looking at more ways to help the self-employed with their monthly Social Security contributions where income has dropped. These include domestic cleaners, although many of these workers are hidden in the black economy.

Companies announce layoffs

Among the high-profile layoffs of salaried staff, known as ERTEs, this week were 29,500 employees of El Corte Inglés. This is around 29 per cent of the department store group's workforce and it has promised to make up the difference between the government's stop-gap unemployment pay and real salary levels.

Other household names temporarily cancelling contracts included Starbucks, Domino's Pizza, Meliá hotels and Decathlon, as well as many thousands of small firms.