City centre. Photo: Helsinki Marketing

Helsinki takes opening steps to support businesses hit by coronavirus

On 23 March, the City of Helsinki announced its first phase of measures to relieve the burden of firms and organisations that have lost business due to covid-19.

The City of Helsinki is actively seeking solutions to help the many businesses that find themselves in dire financial circumstances due to the covid-19 coronavirus. The city’s opening decisions in this effort are designed to keep the hardest hit companies from developing immediate cash-flow problems.

Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori reported that he has invited representatives of Helsinki's Entrepreneurs Helsingin Yrittäjät  and the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce to discuss how the city could best assist struggling businesses, in preparation for a second round of assistance measures.

The first round of measures includes a decision to allow for a three-month postponement of rent on city-owned commercial premises and other commercial properties leased by the city. After this maximum three-month period, the businesses who have taken advantage of this reprieve can pay back the rent due over a period of 12 months without interest, according to a schedule decided individually with each renter. Subsidiaries of the Helsinki City Group are encouraged to consider this course of action to safeguard their liquidity.

The city will also not require payment of rent on city-owned properties that have had to close down their operations due to the coronavirus. This measure applies to only the time that the properties’ operations have been shut down. This measure also applies to tenants of shut down city-owned properties.

Practical business advice for entrepreneurs

Helsinki has also launched an enhanced informational service that provide practical business advice and support during this exceptional time. This service aims to improve people’s general understanding of the situation and come up with concrete actions to provide immediate assistance to business owners in distress.

The City has compiled an updated list of entrepreneurial support services on the NewCo Helsinki website, and launched a communications campaign targeting individual business owners that has been active since last week. In addition, NewCo Helsinki offers entrepreneurs a crisis counselling service, together with its partners, as part of its regular services.

A regional crisis working group serving startups in Helsinki will also be launched as a joint effort with the Maria 01 startup campus, the Helsinki Business Hub promotion agency and the research funding agency Business Finland.

Organisations need not pay back grants for cancelled events

The City of Helsinki will also not require repayment of municipal funding granted for 2020 events that were cancelled due to covid-19.  Organisations that were recipients of the grants can instead adapt and adjust their activities to the situation, if possible, in order to provide their target audience with important services just the same. In other words, the plan that inspired the funding can be altered, but it still must fulfil the grant’s principles, even after the changes. No separate permission is required to make these changes.

Payment extensions for city customers

The City of Helsinki will also extend the payment period on customer billing of over €100 for various city services from 30 days to 60, at the customer’s request, until further notice.

Phone campaign targeting seniors kicks off on 23 March

In other announcements, the new Helsinki Aid outreach campaign to the elderly organised by the City of Helsinki in collaboration with local parishes and charities will be led by Tiina Hörkö, who will transfer from managing youth work in western Helsinki to leading the service this week.