Russian Small Businesses Suffer amid Mandatory Shutdown

The non-working period due to the coronavirus outbreak, which Russian authorities extended until the end of April, is hurting small businesses, while the government’s support measures are not enough, Reuters reports citing entrepreneurs.

Dmitry Volodin, the co-owner of several bars in Moscow, says he was left with no income because of the coronavirus lockdown, and government support he’s getting is inadequate. Volodin has no idea how he can keep paying his staff and his rent.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin gave many Russians the rest of the month off, to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, but said employers must keep paying staff. Many regions have gone into lockdown, ordering residents to stay home.

“They say ‘pay the salaries’, but no one explains where you’re supposed to get the money from,” Volodin said. “It will kill the (restaurant and bar) sector. Many of them won’t survive.”

Small and medium-sized businesses have voiced anger and warned of mass bankruptcies in petitions to the government, including one with more than 250,000 signatures, illustrating the headwinds Putin faces as he tries to counter the virus.

Critics point to how other countries have offered to pay workers; Britain, for example, pays up to 80% of wages. They also note Russia’s huge gold and forex reserves, around $550 billion.

Asked about worried entrepreneurs on Friday, the Kremlin said the situation was unprecedented and changing rapidly, but that businesses should tap support measures such as tax holidays that had already been made available.

“The government is of course monitoring the situation not so much every day as every hour, and depending on how it develops, a scenario of support measures will be built up,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

On Monday, the government announced a 150 billion-ruble program under which banks will offer interest-free loans to small businesses to pay salaries.

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