Heidi Virta
Senior Director and Head
Region Latin America for Business Finland
/
Expert Contributor

Business Finland: Relief for Businesses in Times of Crisis

By Heidi-Marian Virta | Tue, 03/31/2020 - 17:06

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has stopped the normal functioning of some institutions, including the Finnish Embassy. Like many others, we are working remotely, as directed by the Finnish government, and we strongly encourage that everyone, to the extent of their capabilities, contribute to the social distancing initiative to help contain this virus.

During these trying times, other steps can also be taken to cope with this extraordinary situation. Business Finland is working together with the Finnish government to put in place some interesting measures to help Finnish companies, but these actions also stand as an example for all governments and businesses facing this crisis.  

With the declared state of emergency in Finland over the COVID-19 outbreak, the Finnish government, in cooperation with the president of the republic, rapidly took action to put in place policies to protect the population and to safeguard the functioning of society and the economy. One of the first official policies came on March 16, when the government decided on measures to address the COVID-19 outbreak affecting Finnish companies, especially industries with supply chains that had been or would be impacted by the pandemic. The core of the government’s proposal is extensive economic support to minimize the impact of the pandemic. The government agreed on a comprehensive package to safeguard jobs and livelihoods and ease the economic pressure on businesses. Now, through Business Finland, the initiative is being implemented.

Our organization has been given an additional 150 million (US$165.7 million) specifically to help companies hit by the crisis. These funds are intended for SMEs and midcap companies in sectors like tourism, the creative industry and the performing arts. By March 22, the number of companies that had applied to the program stood at 4,000, with €8 million (US$8.8million) provided so far. The number of applications was larger than expected, demonstrating the severity of the situation for the private sector.

Fortunately, the government reacted promptly in preparing this massive support package for companies. In addition, two financing programs will be introduced by Business Finland to continue promoting business growth in disruptive circumstances. The first will rely on a preliminary assessment of business disruption, providing financing up to €10,000 (US$11,044). Eighty percent of the credits will be grant financing with a 70 percent advance. The second program is a development financing scheme up to €100,000 (US$110,445) with an 80 percent or 70 percent advance.

Companies started applying for these financing schemes on March 19 and the first approvals came on March 20. Moreover, Finland's government and the Finnish business community, thanks to their prompt and proactive response to this emergency situation, are contributing to the solution by putting the most valuable national asset into action: their people.

The government organized an online hackathon called Hack the Crisis Finland on March 20-22 in partnership with local companies, startups and tech communities to address the COVID-19 impact. Hack the Crisis Finland registered 1,500 participants and 200 companies in three categories: Save Lives, Save Communities and Save Businesses. The initiative, inspired by Finland's southern neighbor Estonia that started the Hack the Crisis movement, was a call to action to each and everyone to participate in this fight.

All schools have also suspended classes to prevent the spread of the virus. To help educators continue teaching, Finnish education technology companies (Edtech) are offering their solutions free of charge so interested schools can continue to teach at a distance. These applications have the Finnish pedagogical quality certification and are used in hundreds of schools in Finland.

 

Business Finland is the Finnish government agency in charge of activities related to foreign trade, investment and financing and connecting Finnish companies to international markets. Business Finland has presence and representation within Latin America in Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Mexico. Its regional headquarters is based in Mexico City.

 

If you represent a Finnish company with operations in Mexico that has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact Business Finland (andres.rosas@businessfinland.fi) to analyze whether measures can be implemented to support your business.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Government Communications Department, Ministry of Education and Culture, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Photo by:   by Business Finland