In December 2019, a cluster of viral pneumonia cases caused by a novel strain of coronavirus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has since swept across China and throughout the world with alarming rapidity. As the virus spread, it dealt heavy blows to many industries and businesses in its path. In Taiwan, the government responded quickly with a three-pronged plan of disease prevention, industrial relief and economic stimulus: Disease prevention includes strict border controls and local prevention and mitigation strategies. For industries and businesses hit by the outbreak, the government has rolled out relief programs—regardless of industry—with the aims of distributing benefits equally, achieving immediate results, strengthening industrial foundations, and accelerating public works projects.
Taiwan also promulgated a special act on COVID-19 prevention, relief and recovery on March 18, 2020 to authorize a special budget of NT$60 billion (US$2 billion); this special budget was combined with NT$40 billion from existing government budgets and funds to create an initial relief package worth NT$100 billion. Covering everyone from families and disadvantaged groups to companies and industries, the package provides such support as individual tax breaks, household expense subsidies, industrial relief and business tax cuts. As the pandemic continued to worsen around the world, Taiwan amended the COVID-19 relief act to add another NT$150 billion to the special budget, which was combined with NT$140 billion from other government budgets and funds and NT$700 billion in loans, bringing the total relief package to NT$1.05 trillion.
Three types of relief
■ Financial aid:
Measures include providing businesses and workers with NT$700 billion in loans, including NT$300 billion in operational and stimulus loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); offering generous loan interest subsidies to SMEs; lenient processing of returned checks; subsidizing banks that reduce or forgive interest on old SME loans; and providing relief loans to workers.
■ Employment assistance:
Subsidies are available to supplement salaries for furloughed or short-time workers and to encourage them to undergo training while on leave. Workers who lose jobs during the outbreak will receive the usual unemployment payments, and companies hiring these workers will receive compensation. To help stabilize employment relations, the government has expanded facility improvement subsidies to more companies, allowing them to take advantage of operational downtime to upgrade safety and sanitation facilities.
■ Tax breaks:
Small business entities exempted from reporting their sales amounts will automatically have their assessed tax amounts lowered. Profit-seeking enterprises that lose business income due to COVID-19 may deduct the losses from taxable income. Tax deadlines have been eased to allow taxpayers to postpone payment of taxes or pay in installments. Tax breaks will be given to employers who pay employees during time off due to the coronavirus. Taxpayers receiving government-provided subsidies and allowances may exclude such assistance from taxable income.