SEATTLE, Washington — With the already existing disparities between higher and low-income groups, COVID-19 poverty has only worsened the financial inequality in France. Despite a steady decline, France has seen a surge of coronavirus cases in October. As in most other countries, the French government shut down in early 2020. It prohibited the traditional “bise” (kiss greeting) and gatherings of more than 5,000 people. Events such as the Paris Half Marathon were canceled, and the Louvre Museum was closed. However, the fight against COVID-19 in France has only begun.
The Effect of COVID-19 in France
As of winter 2020, there are more than two million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in France. In September 2020, The Banque of France estimated that 800,000 additional jobs would be lost by the end of 2020, expecting to push more than 130 million people into poverty globally. The World Bank also stated that the economic recession in 2020 is at its highest level since World War II. After the first lockdown ended in July, a second lockdown came into effect. Steps are underway to ensure a swift economic recovery. On September 3, a new plan, titled Plan de Relance, was announced. Plan de Relance includes direct fiscal aid of approximately 100 billion euros for the next two years, to support investments, businesses and ecological transitions.
Alleviating the Effects of COVID-19
In May 2020, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe grappled with the economic paralysis by announcing the government’s intention of funding 110 billion euros to support the economy. Of this 110 billion, eight billion euros were allocated for the health system and four billion euros were allocated to pay for face masks. Working in areas that suffered the most from COVID-19 in France, healthcare staff will receive higher pay and a bonus of 1,500 euros. As part of the emergency aid package, one billion euros were given to four million households. Each family received 150 euros and each child under welfare and housing benefits received 100 euros. In the private sector, 24 billion euros were given to laid-off workers, and seven billion were given to small businesses, independent workers and those unemployed due to the lockdown. All these measures are due to an 8% loss of gross domestic product.
In October 2020, aides personnalisées au logement (personalized housing help) were added to the government’s COVID-19 poverty scheme. Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that about 400,000 low-income young adults would have an extra 150 euros a month, with 100 extra euros per child.
Continuing the Fight
The fight against COVID-19 in France continues. The French government increased its aid for the unemployed by four billion euros. For the self-employed and small business owners, two aid packages totaling 3,500 euros have been made available. The French government is also helping hospital workers in the hardest-hit areas. These hospital workers received a 1,500 euros bonus, while hospital workers in the other parts of the country received 500 euros. Public officials working during the lockdowns were granted a bonus of up to 1,000 euros. All this aid and fiscal involvement undoubtedly helped provide relief from this currently incurable disease. France is currently in a fight against COVID-19 poverty — an ongoing, but winnable, fight.
– Shelby Gruber