Amandine had to close her restaurant and Françoise her esthetician’s office. Jérôme continues to deliver his parcels, André to serve the customers of his pharmacy. As for the others, they telework at home, as much as possible. Worried about the survival of their business and the jobs of their employees, concerned about the economic recovery they hope will happen quickly, we suggested that they ask all their questions to the Minister of Action and Public Accounts, Gérald Darmanin.
This Thursday morning, at the time of confinement imposed by the government, these seven readers – all independent or small bosses – swept, by videoconference, the subjects which concern them: partial unemployment, aid of 1500 euros from the solidarity fund, postponements of charges, tax-free premium for employees, economic recovery plan…
During 1h30, installed in a meeting room of Bercy, Gérald Darmanin tried to bring clear answers to the concerns of our readers.
MAINTAIN JOBS AND HELP EMPLOYEES
Cyrille Vue. I did not receive a return following my request for partial unemployment for two thirds of my employees. Will it be accepted?
GERALD DARMANIN. All companies have access to partial unemployment, which will be paid for by the state. They must address their request to the Regional Directorates for Businesses, Competition, Consumption, Labor and Employment (Direccte) who will check whether the business is closed, if the activity has dropped sharply or if sanitary conditions are not gathered to make the employees work. Today, 1.2 million employees are already on partial unemployment and only the requests of 28 companies have been refused. In fact, if within 48 hours the Direccte has not replied to you, it means that your request is accepted.
Amandine Chaignot. If the health crisis continues beyond April 15, will the government be able to cover short-time working?
Yes. The measurements are valid throughout the confinement. We have planned for now 8.5 billion euros (bn €) but it may be necessary to put more money.
André Petton. I want to pay the bonus of 1000 € to my employees but I do not have a profit-sharing agreement in my pharmacy. Can I do it anyway?
Absolutely. During the crisis, we withdrew the profit-sharing agreement as a condition required to pay the bonus of € 1,000, tax-exempt and de-socialized for companies with less than 250 employees. You can therefore pay them the bonus until August 31 because we have extended the deadline.
Amandine Chaignot. The government supports large retailers. But is aid to producers possible?
All these companies are eligible for partial unemployment, deferral of charges, rent deferral, loan guaranteed by the State … But we also asked large retailers, with the Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume, to can be supplied in priority from French producers. We are trying to facilitate the transportation of goods and find labor. As for consumers, who have a role to play in this crisis, I invite them to buy French products.
André Petton. My cleaning lady no longer comes since confinement. Can I declare her as part-time unemployed?
Yes. Like childminders, they can benefit from it. Concretely, you have to pay 80% of the gross salary that you usually pay to your home employee and you will be reimbursed by Urssaf, after filling out a document available on Pajemploi or Cesu as of Monday. Your home carer will have to attest to the honor that he did not work for you.
Jérôme Pimot. Is it essential to maintain comfortable deliveries, despite the risks run by employees?
Surely there are people who make comfortable deliveries and we must regret and discourage them from doing so. But there are also people who are very isolated, or who end their day late, who need deliveries of goods. I know that you, like the police, customs, cashiers or transporters, are on the front line. But there is no question of preventing the activity of such and such a company which respects the health regulations.
SUPPORT THE SELF-EMPLOYED AND COMPANIES
Françoise Roperz. On which turnover will the aid of 1500 € be calculated, will everyone be eligible?
All companies – whether a micro-entrepreneur or a small SME – which record less than one million euros in turnover and whose loss is 70% between March 2019 and March 2020 will be entitled to this aid of € 1,500. The mechanism may be extended if the crisis continues. On March 31, on the tax site, you will just have to fill out an extremely simple form and the payment will be made three days later.
Jérôme Pimot. To benefit from the € 1,500 aid, you must have a 70% drop in turnover in March. Containment started in mid-March. Why, the calculation is therefore not done on a 50% drop in turnover?
There is no miracle solution. But the state is already making a considerable effort. We are trying to help the tens of thousands of businesses in greatest difficulty. Nearly a million companies will be able to benefit from this device.
Laura Virleux. The government promises a deferral of social and tax charges. But there is no guarantee that my activity will allow me to finance it in the long term. Can we not count on a cancellation?
We tried to deal with the most urgent by setting up the load shift for all companies. We will see what we will do at the end of this crisis, but it is certain that a cancellation cannot be general.
Sébastien Govaert. You carried over the charges from March. Is it possible to also postpone the payment of VAT?
I have given instructions to be able to examine with kindness the cases of companies which are unable to remit the VAT, or even to declare it. On the other hand, the companies which in March will have VAT – large distribution for example, since it sells products in its supermarkets – must return it because it is this money that allows us to make the compensation fund, or to be able to support other load deferrals.
Amandine Chaignot. Insurance does not want to cover the loss of operation of my restaurant. Does the government intend to give them instructions?
The Ministry of the Economy talks a lot with the insurance sector. It must be said that pandemics were not provided for in the contracts. Insurers are therefore quite right to say today: “You did not pay me to cover this risk”. However, with Bruno Le Maire (Editor’s note: the Minister of Economy and Finance) we insisted and the insurance companies have already agreed to take a first step, by paying 200 million euros into the compensation fund. But they probably have to go further, and we’re working on it.
Françoise Roperz. Could a business owner or a freelancer pay his suppliers in 3, 4 or 5 times?
Today, there is no obligation, it is purely a relationship between two private actors. But we encourage businesses – those who can – to continue paying their suppliers to keep the money flowing. If everyone remains in a vacuum, the economic crisis will worsen.
RESTART THE FRENCH ECONOMY
Cyrille Vue. When we are out of the health crisis, how do you imagine the economic recovery?
We are starting to think about the future, even if we do not yet know its contours. First of all, we have to think about how to bring back to our soil the products most essential to the sovereignty of the nation. I am thinking, for example, of the production of drugs and that of masks. Then, it will be necessary to continue the economic recovery: the President of the Republic did so by lowering taxes, I think that is what we will have to continue to do.
Françoise Roperz. Is there a possible questioning of the tax cuts granted since January?
The reduction in income tax is not called into question. Ditto for the abolition of the housing tax, which is not on the agenda either. “Shaddokian” systems must be avoided: giving money to take it up in taxes creates pipes and takes away part of economic activity.
Laura Virleux. Are you worried that the French debt will soar and exceed 100% of GDP?
Debt in itself can be understood if you can afford to pay it off. This is our case and it is for this reason that we continue to borrow on the markets at very low rates, in order to finance the aid that we are trying to put in place. In 2019, we had gone from 98.8% of GDP debt to 98.1% debt. Tomorrow we will exceed 100%, you are absolutely right. Alas, we changed dimensions in a few weeks. France can afford to have debt at this level for some time, but it will be necessary to find the path of debt below 100% of GDP.
Sébastien Govaert. With the economic crisis, we will exceed the 3% deficit in GDP. Is it a problem ?
In times of crisis, no. If I am for the rigor of management in calm weather, it is precisely so as not to have to skimp on a moment like this. In the past, we have managed to reduce the deficit very sharply, to find room for maneuver. Sometimes the French resented us for asking them for efforts, I made some unpopular decisions myself … But it is because we have made efforts for three years, that today we can afford a plan € 35 billion in cash and € 10 billion for short-time working and for the hospital without being attacked on the financial markets.
André Petton. Air France is in turmoil. Can we imagine a rise in capital? Are other nationalizations planned?
If we have to take measures to protect our industrial flagships, we will take them. If it is necessary to go as far as the nationalization of certain companies, we will do so at the request of the President of the Republic. We are also very careful that there are no war profiteers. That there is no undue enrichment or that vulture funds do not come to take stakes in large French companies.
Sébastien Govaert. Some French people are worried about their savings. Are our banks strong?
Yes, absolutely, especially since the banking reform carried out in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. French banks no longer have dangerous activities as has been the case in the past. French deposits are safe, no one will lose their savings during this crisis.
Gérald Darmanin and the readers of our newspaper
Next to Gérald Darmanin, from left to right and from top to bottom: Jérôme Pimot, delivery boy, spokesperson for the Paris Autonomous Delivery Club; Cyrille Vue, 48, owner of an automobile subcontracting company; André Petton, 60, Villecresnes (Val-de-Marne), pharmacist; Françoise Roperz, 53, esthetician in Paris; Amandine Chaignot, 40, restaurateur in Paris; Sébastien Govaert, boss of a construction company in the south of France and Laura Virleux, self-entrepreneur, founder of “Artisans de Paris”.