The Italian government headed by Mario Draghi on Friday unveiled a fresh package of stimulus measures worth €32 billion ($38 billion), aimed at supporting its ailing economy hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. 

New measures include help of up to €11 billion ($13 billion) for businesses that suffered from lockdown closures, along with the extension of unemployment and furlough schemes.

The additional spending also earmarks new financing for the battered health system, amid a new surge of coronavirus infections. The measures had been already budgeted by the previous government that collapsed in January because of internal infighting.

“This is a decree that targets an ample group of people and which is based on three pillars: supporting businesses, labor, and fighting poverty,” Draghi said at a much-awaited news conference.

Among measures aimed at defending workers from the crisis, the decree extends until the end of June a freeze on firing which was due to expire at the end of March.

Draghi stressed that his government was aware that the move was just a partial response to the unprecedented emergency caused by the pandemic, calling the new measures “a first step” and announcing additional ones in the coming months.

“Our objective is to distribute as much money as fast as possible,” he said. “If everything goes as expected, 11 billion euro will enter the economy in April.”

With most of the country under new lockdown restrictions, Draghi indicated that more stimulus could come as soon as April, likely pushing the budget deficit close to 10% of national output.

Draghi said that the austerity measures and debt policies imposed by the European Union in the past were not conceivable amid the pandemic crisis. ​​​​​​​

“This is not the time to ask for money, this is time to give it,” he said.

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