Four-Billion Shekel Fund Established for Coronavirus-Struck Businesses

Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman (L.) speaks during a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, next to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

The government is establishing a four-billion shekel fund to assist businesses which have been suffering severe financial losses due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced the measure at a Cabinet meeting on Sunday. It represents the first specific commitment to help the private sector, after weeks of pleas amid rapidly mounting losses.

Asked on Army Radio where the money would come from, Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen replied, “We have our resources,” and cited a Ministry of Finance surplus of over NIS 10 billion resulting from the implementation of the continuation budget.

Minister of Finance-designate Nir Barkat (Likud) called for a national emergency program “based on large-scale direct aid for the purpose of rescuing the civil aviation and tourism sectors, which are currently in a state of collapse, and to help the business sector as a whole to survive the crisis.”

Half of the fund, about 2 billion shekels, will be set aside for loans to small and medium-sized businesses, according to Globes.