Coronavirus: All you need to know about financial help in France for self-employed and business owners

The French government is to expand the financial help offered to the country's businesses and self-employed workers to help them cope with the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus lockdown.

Coronavirus: All you need to know about financial help in France for self-employed and business owners
Businesses that were told to close during the coronavirus epidemic could be eligible for financial state. Photo:AFP

Some of the information in this article is outdated and you can find new and updated information here.


Thousands of self-employed workers and small business owners have suffered heavy economic losses since the beginning of the lockdown on March 17th.

The French government put in place schemes to help them stay afloat during the lockdown, an effort that is part of a now €110 billion emergency plan.

A big chunk of the plan funds the 'partial unemployment' scheme for employees that now has more than 9 million French workers claim benefits while employers hold their jobs open during the lockdown.

But the pot of cash set aside to support the country's independent workforce has also been significantly increased since its launch, and has now passed €7 billion.

On Friday, the government said it would strengthen this economic support further.

“Starting on June 1st, we will reinforce the solidarity fund,” said Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire during a press conference.

Le Maire said more groups of workers would be getting access to help – especially those in the hotel, restaurant and event industry that would be hard hit also after May 11th, as they would need to keep stay for longer than the rest of the country's businesses.

The government said it would set a date “by the end of May” for when the restaurant, event and hotel sector could reopen.

He also said one of the packages set in place to help these economic groups would be doubled.

What is the government doing to help the self-employed?

Self-employed people belonging to either the category micro-entrepreneur (formerly auto-entrepreneurs), indépendant or TPE (small business owners) could be entitled to financial compensation.

The government has supplemented the initial €1,500 help package with another one. This second economic help was first elevated from €2,000 to €5,000, but Economy Minister this Friday said it would now be doubled to up to €10,000. 

However the requirements for the two packages differ and the €1,500 help package is much easier to obtain. This funding is given directly by the government, whereas the second help package needs to be requested from each business' regional authority. 

The steps for requesting each package are laid out below.

€1,500 help package

Only businesses counting less than 10 employees and earning less than €1 million a year are eligible for this aid package. 

The business also needs to tick at least one of the two following boxes.

  • It was asked to close during the coronavirus lockdown due to health reasons (as has been the case for many business in the tourist sector, restaurant sector and other)

  • Its income in March 2020 amounted to less than 50 percent of that in March 2019. Businesses that were created after March 2019 may also be eligible for the help package if their income in March 2020 amounted to less than 50 percent of their average monthly earnings since the business was launched. 

Note: a previous version of this article stated that the requirement was an income loss of 70 percent or more than the previous year. This is because the government changed the initial required loss of income from minimum 70 to 50 percent on March 31st, after a first version of this article was published.

The government has also opened this fund up for businesses that have lost 50 percent or more of their average annual income, after receiving complains that comparing with April would be misleading due to the 'yellow vest' riots having caused numbers to tumble in 2019.

Note: starting June 1st, the fund will be accessible to all hotel, restaurant and event businesses – all the businesses that needed to keep shut after May 11th – would be able to access the fund if they had up to 20 employees and were earning up to €2 million a year.

Does everyone get €1,500?

No. Only businesses where the financial loss during the lockdown amounts to at least €1,500 will get a full €1,500 in financial compensation. That means that your income in March 2020 must be at least €1,500 less than in March 2019 (or €1,500 less than the average income if the business is new).

Businesses having lost less also qualify for help, but will get smaller amounts that correspond to what they have lost.

Is this help package renewable?

Yes, the government first extended the help package to include April and now also for May. Businesses can reapply for the fund for the month of April starting May 1st and for May on June 1st.

Who does not qualify for this help?

Anyone ticking the following boxes do however not qualify for aid.

  • Small business where the owner has supplementary income sources
  • Businesses that pay dividends to shareholders
  • Business owners who launched their business after February 1st 2020 
  • Self-employed on a contract type CDD or CDI (these people can claim chômage partiel instead)
  • Anyone benefiting from a pension vieillesse (pension for the elderly)
  • Anyone who received more than €800 in social security help in March 2020

How do I access it?

If you meet the criteria above, you will get up to €1,500 automatically extended to you by French tax authorities.
To apply, click here and log in to your espace particulier to fill out the required form.
You will need to upload an attestation sur l'honneur confirming that your business did not have any fiscal or social debt remaining on December 31st 2019.
You will have to upload the following documents:
  • Your SIRET number (comprising your SIREN number)
  • Your bank RIB
  • Proof of your earnings in March 2020
  • Proof of your earnings that will be used as reference to calculate if your March 2020 income was lest than 50 percent of the previous year (or the average of the months before if your business is new).

€2,000 – €10,000 help package

This aid package is for “the businesses facing most difficulties,” according to the government's website.

Starting Wednesday, April 15th, businesses may apply for a supplementary help package from their “regional services where they exercise their activities.”

The requirements for getting this money are much stricter and few self-employed will actually qualify.

You will need to

  • Have at least one employee
  • Be unable to pay your debt for 30 days
  • Your bank has declined you a loan
Rent, gas and electricity

Businesses and self employed will also be able to suspend payments on rent, gas and electricity.

Member comments

  1. As in the Yosemite park in the USA ,more life appeared and it become much better,I think bears and wolves should be introduced into France,and we must protect Farmers and their livestock as much as we can ,but good corporation between both sides their must be a way to work on improvement of bioavailability of France.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Reader question: Why does secular France have Catholic holidays?

You might not have thought about it too much as you enjoyed an extra day off work, but it is perhaps unexpected that France - proudly secular since 1905 - has so many public holidays based around Catholic festivals.

Reader question: Why does secular France have Catholic holidays?

Reader question: Why does France have Catholic holidays like Ascension, Assumption and Toussaints? I thought it was supposed to be a secular republic?

The French Republic is very proud of its secular principles but yet as some readers observed, many public holidays are linked to Catholic celebrations, a reminder of its religious history.

Roughly half of the public holidays in France represent Catholic events: Easter, Ascension (May 26th), Assumption (August 15th), Pentecost (for some people), All Saints’ day (November 1st) and of course Christmas.

If you live in Alsace-Moselle (formerly Alsace-Lorraine) you get two extra holidays, both religious ones – Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) and St Stephen’s Day (December 26th) – more on why that is later.

France’s secular stance takes its roots in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 but was formally codified into law in 1905. 

France does not recognise, pay or subsidise any religion. So French local and national governments are not allowed to finance churches, mosques, synagogues or temples, and religious symbolism is not allowed in State buildings or for representatives of the State.

It is these rules that mean that, for example, French primary schools don’t perform nativity plays at Christmas and French female police officers are not permitted to wear the Muslim headscarf while on duty.

EXPLAINED What does France’s secularism really mean?

The flip side of this is that freedom of worship is also protected in the 1905 law, and everyone is allowed to practice whatever religion they choose in their private life.

The only exception to the secular rules are the three departments of Alsace-Moselle. When the 1905 law was passed the region was part of Germany and only became French again at the end of World War I. As part of the compromise agreed, today bishops, priests, rabbis and pastors have the status of civil servants and the state pays for the maintenance of religious buildings. Religious education in public schools is also preserved.

So all that seems to pretty strongly suggest that Catholic festivals should play no part in France’s holiday calendar and only the secular events – such as the Fête nationale on July 14th or VE Day on May 8th – should remain.

However, by the time secularism was formally codified into law in 1905 there was already a fairly fixed calendar of holidays and festivals – although this had already been slimmed down under the Napoleonic government in 1802 – and suddenly axing popular festivals was likely to go down pretty badly with the population at large.

Essentially then, this was a pragmatic compromise between tradition and secularism and over the years politicians have been understandably reluctant to tell the French they must lose their holidays.

But it’s noticeable that all the religious festivals in the calendar are Christian ones, and while this may reflect France’s history it’s not so representative of the current demographics, where an estimated 10 percent of the population either practice the Muslim faith or have a Muslim family background.

So could we see a scenario when we knock Ascension on the head but make Eid a public holiday?

It’s theoretically possible – in 2015 the French parliament voted through an amendment that would allow the départments of France’s Overseas Territories (Martinique, Gaudeloupe, Mayotte, Réunion and French Guiana) to switch a Catholic bank holiday for another religious celebration to suit different faiths in the local population.

However none of the overseas départements has yet made that move. 

A fresh amendment would be required to make the same move in mainland France, and there appears to be little political appetite for that at present.

What are France’s public holidays? 

  • January 1st: New Year’s Day
  • Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Monday, only a holiday in Alsace-Lorraine)
  • Easter Monday (movable date)
  • May 1st: May Day
  • May 8th: VE Day
  • May 26th: Ascension Day
  • Pentecost (movable date and no longer an official holiday)
  • July 14th – Bastille Day
  • August 15th – Assumption
  • November 1st – All Saints
  • November 11th – Armistice Day
  • December 25th – Christmas
  • December 26th – St Stephen’s Day (only a holiday in Alsace-Lorraine)