HOW TO GET YOUR SHARE OF 25 MILLION: Guidelines for emergency funds for Svalbard tourism businesses hurt by COVID-19 pandemic released; deadline is Jan. 22

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Photo by Jarle Røssland via Visit Svalbard

Guidelines and a deadline for 25 million kroner in grants to help tourism-related businesses in Svalbard hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic were announced Monday by Norway’s government, although the application itself is still pending.

Short summary: Just about any existing or new business/offering either individually or jointly that benefits tourism likely meet the guidelines as long funds aren’t used for “fixed costs or for a decline in income,” but there’s numerous eligibility requirements related to being Svalbard-based and meeting accounting/wage standards. However, exemptions to the requirements are possible for proposals “that obviously support the scheme’s purpose.”

The application deadline is Jan. 22, 2021.

The funding was approved last month by Norway’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, months after local business and political leaders said immediate help was needed to prevent numerous companies from going bankrupt. In a press release, Trade and Industry Minister Iselin Nybø said the allocation is intended to benefit a broad range of entities that contribute to sustained year-round tourism in a way that furthers the government’s overall Svalbard policy goals.

“Examples of measures that can receive support are rebuilding of existing operations, infection control measures that enable further operations, changes in operating concepts, shifting to new customer groups and skills development,” Nybø said.

Allocation of individual grants will be made by the Longyearbyen Community Council, which will also consider other factors such as whether the requested funds will contribute to sustainable tourism and be used in ways that can be quickly implemented. The applications themselves are expected to be available at the city’s website shortly.

 

A five-page letter from the ministry to the local council summaries the formal eligibility requirements detailed in the Norwegian government’s regulations database.

Normally, up to one million kroner in assistance can be provided, but exemptions are possible for collaborative projects or those “that to a particularly large extent support the purpose of the scheme,” according to the ministry. Grants can be sought for up to 75 percent of a project’s costs, including wages.

An initial payment of 75 percent of the grant will be made when the program begins, with the remainder paid out when the program has been implemented and the local council has received a progress report meeting proper standards. Funding can be withheld – and taken back – if the funds are not used or accounted for properly.

“The subsidy scheme shall not compensate for fixed costs or for a decline in income, and shall not overlap with the compensation scheme for business or Innovation Norway’s restructuring scheme for tourism,” the ministry notes in its guidelines. “The subsidy scheme for Svalbard and the compensation scheme for business and industry will be used in such a way that compensations contribute to companies’ short-term survival, while the subsidy scheme will contribute to a reconstruction, development and restructuring of tourism so that companies get through the pandemic and are better equipped for the future.”

Generally, applicants must meet the following requirements, although “an exception provision has been made so that grants can be given for measures that obviously support the scheme’s purpose.”

• The company depends on tourism in Svalbard for a significant part of its income.
• The company has year-round or nearly year-round operations in Svalbard
• The company is a tax resident in Svalbard, a sole proprietorship run by a person who is tax resident in Svalbard, or a responsible company where the participants are tax residents in Svalbard.
• The company follows legal regulations for bookkeeping, accounting and auditing. If the company was established in 2019 or earlier, the financial year 2019 must also be in accordance with the rules.
• The enterprise is registered in the Register of Business Enterprises or the Register of Legal Entities no later than March 1, 2020.
• The company is not exempt from submitting a business income statement.
• The company operates with Norwegian wage terms in line with a collective agreement or a generalized collective agreement on the mainland, if any, and otherwise implements wage terms that are common within the same type of work on the mainland.
• The company is wholly or partly Norwegian owned.

Applicants will have to provide the expected information for grants, including how it will be used for the defined purposes of the funding, a progress report and financial plan, and what other forms of assistance are already being received.