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Anti-Crisis Shield 2.0 has been adopted!

During the night from 16 to 17 April 2020, the Polish Sejm (the lower house of Poland’s parliament), having partially considered amendments submitted by the Senate (the upper house), passed the Act on Specific Support Instruments in Connection with the Spread of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus (“Shield 2.0”). This is a continuation of the aid measures for businesses adopted on 1 April 2020. Significantly, Shield 2.0 allows businesses set up between 1 February and 1 April 2020 to also use the aid measures. The Polish President signed the Anti-crisis Shield 2.0. on 17 April 2020, and it has already come into force.

Below, please find a description of some of the aid measures for businesses, introduced or modified by Shield 2.0:

New support provided by the Industrial Development Agency and the Financial Shield

Shield 2.0 allows firms to benefit from a support scheme offered by the Industrial Development Agency (Agencja Rozwoju Przemysłu Spółka Akcyjna) focused on helping them to enhance their financial liquidity. Such support will be available to businesses that, further to the declaration of a state of epidemiological threat or a state of epidemic, have found themselves in financial distress, meaning that they have suffered a decline in economic turnover due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The size and type of support will depend on the financial consequences that have actually been reported by the applicant due to the declaration of a state of epidemiological threat or a state of epidemic, as well as the scale of its business. The new solutions on offer include:
  1. an operating lease with a grace period intended for refinancing existing leases in commercial companies and leasing associations;
  2. a working-capital loan to make up for a shortage in working capital; and
  3. a working-capital loan to fund the payment of salaries in the SME sector.
In addition, the Shield 2.0 introduces certain solutions streamlining the introduction of a mechanism nicknamed the “Financial Shield”, which was already announced by the Government. The Financial Shield is an extended range of powers vested in the Polish Development Fund (PFR) to fast-track financial aid for firms, specifically, in the form of the issues of bonds.

Loans for microenterprises – increased availability

Under Shield 2.0, a loan for microenterprises will also be available to enterprises that do not have any employees. This will be possible thanks to the waiver of the condition for applicants to maintain their records of employees as it was as at 29 February 2020. In accordance with the amended shield, an applicant may have its loan forgiven provided that it continues to conduct business for at least three months from the date on which the loan was extended.

Extension of the circle of firms that qualify for ZUS exemption

Importantly, the new Shield 2.0 introduces an extended circle of businesses that can qualify for a three-month exemption from contributions to the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS), namely: payments for social insurance, health insurance, the Labour Fund, the Solidarity Fund, the Guaranteed Employee Benefits Fund and the Bridging Pensions Fund. From now on, this relief will be available also to businesses employing from ten to 49 employees. However, it should be underlined that in this case, the exemption is not 100%. Large payers are only exempted from paying 50% of the total outstanding balance reported in the declaration submitted for a given month.

The other novelty is that ‘contribution holidays’ are allowed for sole traders that conducted their business activity before 1 April 2020, where their business income obtained in the first month for which the motion is being submitted was not higher than 300% of the average monthly gross salary in the national economy in 2020. Until now, the option of taking a ‘contribution holiday’ could only be taken by a sole trader who conducted his business activity before 1 February 2020.

Multiple work stoppage pay for businesses and individuals performing work based on civil-law contracts

Shield 2.0 also introduces an option to take advantage of benefits due to a work stoppage (postojowe) in the amount of 80% of the national minimum wage, up to three times. To date, this benefit was payable on a one-off basis. Currently, to qualify for subsequent benefit for a work stoppage, an applicant is required to declare in an official statement that its financial situation has not improved. Additionally, the Anti-crisis Shield 2.0. has removed the limitation according to which person conducting non-agricultural business activity cannot obtain stoppage pay if its income in the month preceding the month of motion’s submission was higher than 300% average monthly salary from the previous quarter published by the President of the Main Statistical Office and valid on the day of submission of the motion.

The benefit for a work stoppage is addressed to individuals engaged in non-farming activities and individuals performing work under a civil-law contract, who meet specific conditions, such as a reduction in revenue from business activity, or the non-performance of a civil-law contract due to a stoppage in the client’s business.

Download Legal Alert Anti-Crisis Shield 2.0 as PDF