SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s president Sebastián Piñera announced on Thursday a raft of new measures aimed at helping middle class families stay afloat amid a new wave of coronavirus contagions that has sent swaths of the country back into lockdown.
The comparatively wealthy South American nation has been lauded for its handling of the pandemic, and for its orderly roll-out of vaccines, among the fastest in the world. But a recent spike in contagions has once again forced health authorities to announce restrictions on commerce and movement to stem the virus’ spread.
Pinera’s bill, which now heads to Congress for review and approval, includes a “middle class bonus” for the equivalent of between about $558 and $836 dollars per beneficiary and an interest-free loan with a one-year grace period. The measure would also include a subsidy for home rental payments.
Pinera’s center-right government has already introduced a host of other stimulus to combat the economic impact of the virus on its poorest citizens, including spot payments, soft loans, mortgage payment holidays and rent subsidies worth more than 12% of gross domestic product.
The government estimates the economy will expand by 5% in 2021, and has said the majority of its population will be vaccinated by June.
(Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Marguerita Choy)