CITY ACTIVATES EMERGENCY AID APPLICATIONS FOR ‘EXEMPT’ RESIDENTS: Laid-off – but not self-employed or freelance – workers can now seek up to 20 days’ compensation

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The estimated 300 Longyearbyen residents from non EU/EEA countries who are ineligible for “regular” unemployment/insurance benefits after laid off during the past few weeks due to the coronavirus crisis can now apply online for a total of seven million kroner in special assistance, the city announced Thursday.

Applicants can receive up to 20 days of unemployment coverage, plus assistance for children under 18 meeting specific requirements (see English-language FAQ from city’s website at end of article). The assistance is available to those laid-off from companies after March 19, not residents who are self-employed or working as freelancers.

The application portal at the city’s website offers information in Norwegian, English, Thai and Russian, but the application itself is as of now only provided in Norwegian. The special funding period expires June 20 and the Norwegian government has stated there are no plans to consider an extension.

The special allocation – which some exempt residents say is still woefully inadequate to address short-term needs and far short of the assistance available to other residents – was approved by the Norwegian government at the urging of city officials who noted the high percentage of foreign residents and the estimated 90 percent layoffs in the tourism industry many of them work for.

While the city has official authority to manage and approve the applications, there is nothing in the official plan allowing them to exercise discretion for individual cases.

Applicants must meet the following requirements:

• Laid off from work in the Longyearbyen plan area
• Registered in the Svalbard population registry with a residential address in the Longyearbyen planning area
• Is not a national nor has a residence permit for an EU/EEA country
• Has been subject to Svalbard tax in 2020 through work at the current employer
• Intends to stay in the Longyearbyen planning area

The application itself must include:

• A work contract and layoff noice
• A copy of pay receipts for the last three months of employment
• Documentation of rent contacts and payments, and receipts for municipal fees

Frequently asked questions, via the city’s website:

1. Can freelancers receive grants?
A freelancer receives payment for individual assignments without being permanently or temporarily employed by the person for whom they are working. Another term used for freelancing is “contractor”. A freelancer is not entitled to grants as one does not have permanent employment and thus a freelancer is not laid off from permanent employment.
2. Can temporary (on-call) substitutes receive grants?
Temporary (on-call) substitutes are employees who do not work permanently in a company, but who take on assignments when needed in the company. A temporary (on-call) substitutes does not have permanent employment and therefore is not laid off. Temporary (on-call) substitutes will therefore not be entitled to grants
3. I started working in Longyearbyen in January 2020, and I should have worked through the tourist season. Can I get a grant?
To apply for a grant, you must be laid off by your employer after 19 March. You must be able to document that you have an employment contract, pay checks from the last three months and the layoff notice from your employer. If you can document this, you can apply for a grant.
4. Can married couples / cohabitants without children receive grants until 20 June?
No. Only those who care for children under the age of 18 and who live with them in Longyearbyen can apply for a grant until 20 June. Married couples / cohabitants without care for children under the age of 18 can be get subsistence grant and housing grant for up to 20 days.
5. I do not have a work contract, but I can provide pay checks. Can I get a grant?
No. A copy of the employment contract must be attached to the application.
6. I care for children who are not my biological children; can I get grants for the children?
You can apply for a grant if you have responsibilities for children under the age of 18 and they live at your home address in Longyearbyen.
7. Will I receive a grant if I am not registered in the population registry for Svalbard?
No, you must have a registered home address in Longyearbyen. This means that you must be registered at the Svalbard Tax Office.
8. Where can I appeal my decision?
The appeal can be sent to the Longyearbyen Local Council, PO Box 350, 9171 Longyearbyen.
9. Why haven’t I received a grant?
If you have not been received a grant, you probably have not met all the requirements.
See requirements below:
a. is laid off from work in the Longyearbyen plan area
b. is registered in the population registry for Svalbard with a residential address in the Longyearbyen plan area
c. is not a national of or has a residence permit in an EU/EEA country
d. has been subject to Svalbard tax in 2020 through work at the current employer
e. Staying in the Longyearbyen plan area
10. I have a sole proprietorship, can I get a grant?
The proprietor of individual enterprises is defined as self-employed and cannot lay off himself and therefore cannot apply for grants under this scheme.
11. What is housing grants?
Housing grants are grants for documented housing expenses, including rent and electricity, municipal fees and other fees to Longyearbyen Local Council.
12. What is subsistence?
Subsistence grants are grants to cover essential, basic expenses such as food, clothing, communications, household items and hygiene and more.
13. How can I prove that I am staying in the Longyearbyen plan area?
The decision (which is the response to your application) will be provided in person upon presentation of valid credentials/ID. Applicants will receive a text message from the Longyearbyen Local Council, when the decision is complete and you can come and retrieve it. Time and place will be given information about in the text message.
14. Where can I get the necessary documents?
You can get the work contract, layoff notice and pay checks from your employer. You must have received a rental contract from the landlord upon moving into the home where you live. You can find documentation of paid rent and other expenses in your own bank account.
15. I don’t have the last pay check, what do I do?
Then you must contact your employer.
16. I do not have a rental contract because I rent a room from a friend, can I still apply for a housing grant?
You can apply for a housing grant if you can document a sublease contract and document last month’s payment of rent.
17. I do not have access to a scanner or printer to provide the documentation I need. What to do?
You are encouraged to seek help from your employer for scanning and printing the required documentation. It is also possible to take pictures of the documents and upload the pictures as an attachment to the application.
18. I was laid off on 19 March and have been in Longyearbyen until 3 April. Can I get a grant for the days I have been in Longyearbyen since I was laid off on 19 March?
No. You must be in Longyearbyen when the decision is made.