MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin promised extra funding to Russia’s regions on Wednesday and said small and medium-sized businesses would be eligible for direct state aid to help the economy cope during the coronavirus outbreak.

Putin’s first round of emergency measures, which included declaring that most employees should stop working for a period with full pay, had left many small business owners wondering how they would meet wage and other bills.

Russia has reported 24,490 infections and 198 deaths from the new coronavirus, with lockdown measures imposed across the country at the discretion of regional governors.

During a government meeting on Wednesday, Putin said that Russia’s regions would receive 200 billion roubles ($2.7 billion) in additional support and pledged more than 23 billion roubles to Russian airlines.

He offered more support to small and medium-sized businesses, pledging direct funding for salary payments at the upper level of the minimum wage, at 12,130 roubles a month.

Some small business owners had criticsed Putin and the government and called for more support, including help paying salaries and moratoriums on rent.

On March 25, he said small businesses would be allowed to pay less national insurance for staff and to defer tax payments and, in some cases, loan repayments for six months.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Darya Korsunskaya, writing by Polina Devitt and Alexander Marrow; Editing by Toby Chopra and Philippa Fletcher)

tagreuters.com2020binary_LYNXNPEG3E192-VIEWIMAGE