World News

Italy government wins Senate confidence vote on decree to help virus-hit economy

ROME (Reuters) – The Italian government on Thursday won a confidence vote in the Senate on an emergency decree that lays out measures worth 25 billion euros ($28 billion) to support the economy battered by a severe COVID-19 outbreak.

The package, dubbed the “Heal Italy” decree and presented by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on March 16, suspends loan and mortgage repayments for hard-hit companies and families via state guarantees for banks.

Among other measures, it also increases funds to help firms pay workers temporarily laid off as a result of a lockdown imposed by the government to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease.

The ruling coalition dominated by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the centre-left Democratic Party won the Senate motion by 142 votes to 99.

The decree was contested by the opposition, spearheaded by Matteo Salvini’s right-wing League party, which said the package was insufficient and bedevilled by bureaucracy which made it hard for people to access the funds available.

Since the March 16 initiative, the government has presented two more decrees aimed at helping the most needy with basic provisions, and offering guarantees to banks to try to ensure that credit and liquidity to companies does not dry up.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Crispian Balmer)