The Italian government approved on Wednesday a much-awaited economic package — worth €55 billion ($59.5 billion) — which aimed at helping families and firms damaged by the forced lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The measures, unveiled by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in a televised press conference, include tax suspensions and incentives for firms obliged to stop their activities and financial aid for families and workers who lost their jobs.

“There are people left with no jobs and no income, retailers who risk to shut down, entrepreneurs who face a complete uncertainty for the future,” Conte said. “That is a cry for help that we have never ignored. That is a painful picture of this country that we know and that is why we have done our best to address these difficulties.”

Conte stressed that the main measures included in the new government decree aimed at “relaunching and supporting firms to direct the economy towards a swift restart.”

The economic package earmarks up to €16 billion for both small and medium-sized companies and larger ones, including the suspension of tax payments.

Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said this was “an unprecedented effort to favor firms’ recapitalization and help them absorb their losses.”

One of the most divisive measures — which forced the government to postpone the approval of the decree for several days — was the plan to grant temporary status to illegal immigrants, especially those working in the agricultural sector.

Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova, who battled hard to obtain the approval of the measure, burst into tears during the press conference, remembering her own past as a farmhand.

“For someone maybe it was a secondary issue. But for me, for my personal story, that is fundamental,” Bellanova said. “Starting today, the invisibles will be more visible. From today, the State will win, because it is stronger than crime and illegal hiring.”

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