Small businesses in Italy are struggling to stay afloat as the coronavirus economic crunch begins to bite.
Antonello Alivernini is an Airbnb host in Rome. His business took a hit when the pandemic broke out — in an effort to bring customers back, he is offering free night's stay if people buy a t-shirt.
He is desperate to make up for his lost earnings, as he has received no help from the state.
Alivernini is hoping that help may come in the form of the European Union's Recovery Fund.
"I think the key point is that the European Union recognises every citizen as a worker and every worker as a citizen. So we must first understand how people work and live, and the European Union and European states should understand how to help these people," Alivernini told Euronews.
According to Prometeia, an economic research institute, Italy has over five million small and medium-sized businesses and the tourism sector accounts for over 13% of the country’s GDP.
The EU has allocated €209 billion to Italy where thousands of people have lost their jobs. The money comes from the €750 billion Recovery Fund that will be borrowed from the bloc. But small businesses are worried that they may be left out or forgotten.
Elisa Vitella from the Italian Confederation of Crafts and SMEs said that the EU should pay "particular attention" to small and medium-sized enterprises.
"This is particularly true for micro-businesses, which represent a large part of this world. We ask for dedicated measures that are allocated according to size, so as not to leave out the micro and little business," she added.
Italy must now present its proposals detailing how it will spend the money, with the country set to prioritise the digital, infrastructure and green economies.
For smaller businesses, this will mean improving on their clean energy consumption and online trading.
Patrizia Toia, an Italian socialist MEP said: "The money must be spent well because Europe will be very strict on this, on the quality of the projects and their feasibility. The execution will be as important as the quality of the projects. It will be necessary to prove to be a country with clear ideas and with the capacity to absorb expenditure. We should not be running late at all."
For now, self-employed workers like Antonello will try to keep their businesses alive, as they wait for the funds.