SOUTHINGTON, Connecticut — Working throughout lockdowns and rampant viral spread, governments and hospitals in France have worked to keep people safe and mitigate poverty spikes. However, budgets have been tight and the lockdowns have been stifling. The lay-offs, furloughs and employment shortages that have plagued the world have made no exception for France during COVID-19. As such, hundreds of hospital workers are protesting, demanding wage increases as COVID-19 patients fill hospitals across the country. In its effort to curtail the further spread of poverty, the government has increased its public spending by €20 billion as a part of its fourth revision to France’s COVID-19 response budget.
Assistance to Healthcare Infrastructure
COVID-19 has brought many new challenges to French public hospitals. As French facilities continue to fill up with COVID-19 patients, the hospitals need to expand. This includes hiring more workers, increasing wages and adding support systems to keep workers and patients safe. To entice people to apply for the many open hospital positions within the public hospitals, the second part of an increased health worker wage was approved to start before the end of 2020 instead of March 2021 by Prime Minister Jean Castex. Wages will increase by approximately €183 per month.
Additionally, to improve the state of overcrowded hospitals, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been able to provide some assistance. MSF established screening and testing facilities throughout Paris for people living in poverty and the homeless population. The organization’s work in France caused MSF to create an emergency appeal for healthcare workers to help in residential homes. In response, the French government moved to integrate approximately 12,000 more health workers into understaffed residential homes and hospitals.
The government announced an initiative to provide approximately €20 billion to small businesses through business loans to prevent closures. Since the start of COVID-19, the government has disbursed €470 billion among businesses, the unemployed and various low-income households. Even so, the organization Secours Catholique in France estimated that nearly 10 million French citizens would be considered impoverished by the end of 2020.
France has also increased funding to an income aid program as certain non-essential businesses remain closed. The Revenu de solidarité active (RSA) increased beneficiary payments by €150 for the beneficiaries and an extra €100 per child under the age of 18 over six weeks starting on October 14, 2020. On top of government support from RSA and Personalized Housing Assistance (APL) payments, the European Union is also providing aid. On November 3, 2020, the EU stated how European Union food aid in France would increase to €869 million from 2021-2027—€286 million more than was provided in 2014-2020.
Where to Go From Here?
As cases continue to spike and variants continue to spread, many have speculated about how COVID-19 will further impact France. French health officials developed and updated a COVID-19 app in October 2020 entitled “TousAntiCovid” to better inform the public about the number of cases and updates to policy in France during COVID-19. During its second lockdown, the French government enacted a program known as France Relance, or Relaunch France. The plan invests approximately €100 billion into businesses and business structure in multiple ways for economic recovery. This investment program hopes to create approximately 160,000 jobs by the end of 2021.
Like every nation, France is trying to navigate through further challenges amid the pandemic. If government initiatives and hospital improvements continue, France will be equipped to handle the second wave and mitigate further socio-economic damage during COVID-19. After implementing government aid and planning business loans, France seems to be moving safely in the right economic direction.
– Evan Winslow