Whether at European, federal, regional or provincial level, an impressive range of public financial aid is available to businesses and the self-employed. Apart from certain sectors officially excluded by the public authorities, most businesses and self-employed persons are entitled to support. Much of this aid can be combined and particular attention is paid to starter companies and self-employed persons. The key categories of subsidised investments are set out below.
The Flemish and Walloon Regions and the Brussels-Capital Region offer a range of investment aid set up to assist Belgian or foreign businesses established in the region concerned. The investment must be made in that region. Many of these measures are aimed at starter businesses and the self-employed.
Assistance can take various forms, the most popular of which are:
The type of assistance available, the selection criteria, and the formalities and conditions to be fulfilled differ from one region to another. The source of funding will therefore depend on the particular project and the place where it is going to set up.
The Participation Fund (participatiefonds/fonds de participation) is a federal public institution involved in the market for small and medium-sized businesses and the self-employed. It offers the Starteo loan, the Optimeo loan, the start-up loan and the joint loan.
The Starteo loan: This loan is aimed at the self-employed, small companies and those in the liberal professions with businesses that have been in operation for less than four years. The support consists of a subordinated loan of no more than €250,000 at a preferential rate of 3% for the first two years. The loan is granted for five, seven or ten years, depending on the project type. The amount of the loan is decided on the basis of the capital investment made by the business itself in the project concerned. The loan can never be more than four times the investment made by the business itself and cannot exceed the amount loaned by the business's bank to finance the project.
The Optimeo loan: This is a variant on the Starteo loan and intended for companies with more than four years' activity behind them. The maximum amount of the loan in this case is limited to three times the capital investment made by the company itself.
The start-up loan: The start-up loan (startlening/prêt lancement) is aimed at the fully unemployed who have been receiving benefits or a job-seeker's allowance (wachtuitkering/allocations d'attente) for less than three months, or those on subsistence allowance (bestaansminimum/ minimexe) who wish to become self-employed or set up a company. The support consists of a subordinated loan not exceeding €30,000, for a period no longer than ten years, at a preferential rate of 4 percent. The applicant must contribute one quarter of the sum borrowed, which could be through a loan granted by a financial institution.
Should activity cease during the first five years, the Fund may waive repayment of the balance if proof can be shown, within three months of activity ceasing, that the stoppage was beyond the control of the person concerned. The start-up loan can be combined with a Starteo or Optimeo loan provided the conditions under which these are granted are met.
A joint loan: This loan is aimed at a private person who starts up as self-employed or who sets up a business and who has substantial financial difficulties (e.g. a person receiving a social reintegration income (leefloon/revenu d'intégration sociael, LL/RIS), social security benefits, unemployment benefits, etc). The support consists of a subordinated loan not exceeding €12,000, repayable over four years at a fixed rate of 3%. The joint loan can be combined with a start-up loan provided the conditions under which the latter is granted are met.
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