The European Parliament has voted through the political agreement reached by the co-legislators on the Commission's proposal to provide more funds to support the most deprived in Europe in the recovery phase. EU Member States can soon use money from the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe package (REACT-EU), which provides additional resources to tackle the social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, for programmes financed by the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD).
The FEAD is already providing food, clothing and other basic material assistance to those who need it most, and finances activities to support their social inclusion. On average, since 2014, roughly 13 million people benefit each year. According to a report of the European Food Banks Federation, the demand at food banks has increased up to 50% compared to the pre-coronavirus period.
Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, said: “We need to show solidarity to the people who are facing poverty and social exclusion due to this crisis and are in urgent need of assistance. I welcome this agreement, which will allow Member States to direct support measures to those who need it most through the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). We are not all equal in the face of this pandemic and the most vulnerable suffer more. This agreement is a clear sign that the European Union continues to stand by those most in need.”
REACT-EU: additional funds to tackle the social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic
The EU's €750 billion recovery instrument NextGenerationEU includes €47.5 billion for REACT-EU. This initiative adds funding to the ongoing cohesion policy programmes and the FEAD. The funding can be spent until the end of 2023, therefore bridging the gap between the emergency crisis response and the long-term recovery supported by the new programmes under the long-term EU budget for 2021-2027.
EU countries can decide flexibly how they divide the additional resources from REACT-EU among the funds. Most Member States plan to devote part of these additional funds to the FEAD, allowing programmes to continue supporting those most in need.
Under the amendment to the FEAD Regulation, it is now possible to use an EU co-financing rate of up to 100%, in order to ensure that Member States have sufficient financial means to swiftly implement measures to assist the most deprived. Furthermore, in alignment with REACT-EU, 11% of the additional resources for 2021 will be pre-financed.
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges and put the provision of social services and basic assistance at risk, for instance because of decreased funding and staff shortages.
In April 2020, the Commission already amended the FEAD Regulation once as part of the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+) package. This made it possible to deliver food aid and basic material assistance safely, by using vouchers and providing protective equipment such as masks, gloves and hand gel for volunteers. This new agreement ensures that fresh money can be injected into the fund.
The FEAD makes a real difference on the ground: for example, it has been supporting the supply of food packages to the most vulnerable, including persons with disabilities and people over 65, during the coronavirus pandemic in Bulgaria. In France, every fourth meal offered by Restos du Cœur is financed by the EU. In Portugal, the Casa de Misericordia project in Lisbon supported by FEAD is welcoming 1,200 families each month, providing them with food baskets and accompanying support measures. The FEAD has also been financing a programme providing health and social information to 1,700 particularly vulnerable Romanian citizens, including homeless and unemployed, temporarily living in Sweden.
The political agreement on the FEAD amendment has been approved by the European Parliament. On the side of the Council of the EU, the political agreement has been confirmed by Member States at the Coreper, and awaits final approval in the Council.
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