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Government Approves Pandemic Grants for Bars and Restaurants

Iceland’s government has approved measures in support of restaurant and bar owners that have experienced a loss of income as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, RÚV reports. Owners will soon be able to apply for a so-called “rebound” grant up to a maximum of ISK 10-12 million [$77,900-93,400, €68,500-82,200], Foreign Affairs Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir stated following a cabinet meeting this morning.

“We’re doing this specifically for those parties who have a liquor licence and have experienced a loss of income due to [COVID-19] infection prevention measures,” Þórdís told reporters. Asked whether the grants would be enough to keep bars and restaurants running, the Minister stated that she could not be the judge, but she believed the initiative would make a big difference. The government has also postponed insurance and tax payment deadlines for restaurants in order to ease financial strain on the industry.

The rebound grants are expected to cost the government around ISK 1.5 billion [$116.8 million, €102.7 million]. Þórdís stated that the government was also considering measures in support of freelance and culture workers, other groups that have been hit hard by pandemic restrictions.

Icelandic authorities tightened domestic COVID-19 restrictions last week, closing bars and clubs and extending operational restrictions on restaurants as the country fights its biggest ever wave of COVID-19 infection. Some restaurateurs have criticised the closures and restrictions, pointing to the fact that schools remain open, despite being a source of infection spread. Bragi Skaftason, who operates three restaurants in Reykjavík, has stated that reintroducing partial employment benefits, a pandemic response measure the government has discontinued, would be more helpful to restaurateurs than the government’s current economic response measures.

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