ECA: Quick €100 billion EU response to safeguard jobs during COVID: impact unclear

The EU’s €100 billion support tool for crisis-hit workers and firms (SURE) in member states was a prompt response to mitigate the risk of massive layoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by the European Court of Auditors. However, SURE’s impact on jobsaving cannot be properly assessed because of the way the European Commission designed the novel tool, and because of a lack of good data at national level. To learn lessons for future crisis tools, the Commission should now carry out a full assessment of the SURE support. This will also be an opportunity to see how the risk of fraud was minimised, given that all but one of the countries that used SURE have reported irregularities and alleged fraud.

The COVID-19 pandemic put millions of jobs in Europe at risk. The EU reacted rapidly by introducing the SURE tool, which provides long-term low-cost loans for countries across the bloc. They can use the money to create or extend their job-retention schemes such as short-time work, furlough and wage subsidies, and for health measures. Nineteen countries have requested loans, and nearly €92 billion has already been disbursed. The loans provided to Italy and Spain account for more than half of that amount.

SURE reflected the emergency context and made EU funds available quickly and efficiently to cushion the pandemic’s impact on workers and firms,” said Iliana Ivanova, the ECA member who led the audit. “However, its full impact on the ground is still unknown. Despite some indications of success, there is not enough hard data to assess how many jobs were actually saved.”

Read the Special report of The European Court of Auditors in its entirety here