The measures taken to date by the Confederation to combat the COVID-19 pandemic amount to CHF 31 billion in expenditure during 2020 (supplementary credits), plus CHF 42 billion in sureties and guarantees (guarantee credits). These credits were approved by Parliament in the first half of 2020.
In the meantime, it has become clear that further measures are needed in some areas. Therefore, in this Addendum IIb, adopted during the meeting on 12 August 2020, the Federal Council is applying for an additional 13 supplementary credits amounting to CHF 769.9 million.
Assumption of costs for COVID-19 tests
The bulk of the Addendum relates to costs for COVID-19 tests. In order to be able to react swiftly to a renewed rise in cases, as many tests as possible and appropriate should be carried out. The Confederation is therefore assuming all costs for COVID-19 tests as of 25 June 2020. This will require a supplementary credit of CHF 288.5 million. The amount will be offset against the already approved credit for the procurement of medical materials.
Other large supplementary credits involve the deposit in the railway infrastructure fund (221.3 mn) and the financial stabilization of Skyguide (150 mn). To support public transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is planned to suspend the repayment of the advance to the railway infrastructure fund in 2020. In addition, the legal maximum of two thirds of net revenue from the performance-related heavy vehicle charge is to be paid into the fund. This is why the supplementary credit is necessary. Owing to the collapse in air traffic as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Skyguide has suffered substantial revenue losses. The supplementary credit is to be used to offset this.
All the supplementary credits to be voted on are aimed at cushioning the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The application for the bulk of the credits will therefore be submitted as extraordinary payment requirements, which means that their approval by Parliament requires a qualified majority (agreement of a majority of the members of both chambers).
An exception clause to the debt brake provides for the possibility of designating certain expenditure as "extraordinary". This rule is applicable because the COVID-19 pandemic is an "extraordinary situation" outside the Confederation's control.
What are supplementary credits?
Supplementary credits are add-ons to the budget for the current year; they are to cover unavoidable expenses or investment expenditure, and require parliamentary approval. Applications for supplementary credits can be submitted if it was not possible to foresee the need for funds earlier, if delayed payment would result in considerable disadvantages and if it is not possible to wait until the next budget. The administrative units must provide full justification for their additional credit needs.
The Federal Council usually submits supplementary credit applications to Parliament twice a year in a dispatch. Owing to the extraordinary situation, it is likely that a total of four supplementary credits will be needed this year; they will be debated in the next parliamentary session following their submission.