The Regional Ministry of Economic Transformation, Industry, Knowledge and Universities has so far paid 7,047,000 euros to 2,823 SMEs dedicated to commerce, crafts and hospitality in the province of Almeria, within the framework of the direct aid order of 3,000 euros to provide liquidity to companies in these sectors in order to facilitate the maintenance of their activity despite the pandemic. Of these 2,823 companies supported, 1,484 belong to small businesses and crafts (with 3.7 million paid) and 1,339 are SMEs in the hotel and catering sector (which have received 3.33 million).
This is stated in the report presented today by the Regional Ministry of Economic Transformation to the Governing Council, which indicates that throughout Andalusia 96.47 million euros in aid of 3,000 euros has already been paid out to 37,467 SMEs belonging to small commerce, crafts and catering establishments. Of this amount, 49.68 million euros corresponds to incentives granted and paid to 19,284 small business and craft firms and 46.79 million euros to 18,183 catering companies.
This call for subsidies, financed with ERDF funds, is intended to provide liquidity to SMEs operating in these sectors, which have been hard hit by the pandemic, thereby helping to prevent the definitive closure of their businesses, the loss of employment and irreversible damage to the productive and social structure of Andalusia.
In addition to the 37,467 cases already closed, a further 1,901 cases from all Andalusian provinces are at an advanced stage of processing and will be closed in the coming weeks.
The department headed by Rogelio Velasco has implemented a series of measures aimed at streamlining and simplifying both the application and processing processes, so that the whole procedure can be resolved as soon as possible. In fact, the bulk of the aid has been resolved and paid in four months, which is a very short period of time for the procedure usually followed with incentives that have European Funds.
To achieve this, interested parties were only required to fill in the application form and submit it electronically. In addition, RPA (Robotic Process Automation) technology is being used for the first time for the accreditation of the requirements demanded by European regulations in the management of its resources, which allows the consultation of information and the reading of documents through automated processes. To carry out these tasks and process the volume of applications received, the Department of Economic Transformation has contracted 35 robots, which have been responsible for carrying out the multitude of operations required to resolve the subsidies.
Providing liquidity to SMEs
The grants are aimed at providing liquidity to small businesses and are intended to compensate for expenses incurred in the period between 14 March 2020 and 14 March this year to purchase raw materials and stocks, pay rent, supplies (water, electricity, telephone and gas) and staff costs.
This direct aid can also be used to pay for cleaning services, insurance, security, maintenance and repair of vehicles related to the activity or to pay for protective measures and equipment necessary to cope with COVID-19 (screens, protective equipment or testing), among other items.
These incentives are aimed at SMEs, i.e. companies with fewer than 250 employees and a turnover of no more than 50 million euros or a balance sheet of less than 43 million euros. These small and medium-sized companies must fall under the headings of the Economic Activities Tax (IAE) corresponding to the commerce and catering sectors. In the case of artisan SMEs, they must be registered in the Andalusian Register of Artisans.
Other conditions required include having a tax domicile in Andalusia, carrying out the activity prior to 14 March 2020 and maintaining it in force until the application is submitted. Likewise, these SMEs have had to accredit a drop in sales or income caused by the pandemic of at least 20% in 2020 compared to 2019 and demonstrate that they were not in a crisis situation on 31 December 2019.