In the framework of REACT-EU, the European Commission has granted €373 million to five European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) operational programmes (OPs) in Belgium, Germany, Spain, and Italy to assist with coronavirus emergency response and repair.
The modification of the Wallonia OP in Belgium will provide an additional €64.8 million towards the purchasing of medical equipment for health services and innovation in Belgium. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will benefit from the funds as they build e-commerce, cybersecurity, websites, and online stores, as well as the regional green economy through energy efficiency, environmental protection, smart city development, and low-carbon public infrastructure.
€55.4 million will be spent in Germany’s Federal State of Hessen to support health-related research infrastructure, diagnostic capability, and innovation at universities and other research institutions, as well as climate and sustainable development research, development, and innovation investments. Through an investment fund, this amendment will also provide help to SMEs and financing for start-ups.
In Sachsen-Anhalt, €75.7 million will go toward facilitating SMEs and institutions’ collaboration in research, development, and innovation, as well as providing financing and operating cash to micro-enterprises affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Furthermore, the funding will be used to improve enterprise energy efficiency, boost digital innovation in SMEs, and purchase digital equipment for schools and cultural institutions.
In Italy, the national OP “Social Inclusion” will receive €90 million to promote the social integration of people who are experiencing severe material deprivation, homelessness, or extreme marginalization through “Housing First” services, which combine the provision of immediate housing with enabling social and employment services.
In Spain, €87 million will be provided to the ESF OP for Castilla y León to aid self-employed people and workers whose contracts have been interrupted or reduced as a result of the crisis. The funds will also assist hard-hit businesses, particularly in the tourism industry, in avoiding layoffs.
Finally, finances are required to allow important social services to continue in a safe manner, as well as to hire more staff to ensure educational continuity during the pandemic. REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and will give €50.6 billion in additional funding to Cohesion policy programmes in 2021 and 2022, at current pricing.
Measures focus on boosting labor market resilience, jobs, SMEs, and low-income families, as well as laying future-proof foundations for green and digital transitions and sustained socio-economic recovery, according to the EU on August 27.