‘Small business owners’ voices are unheard’: Foreign entrepreneur falls through gaps of Covid support

'Small business owners' voices are unheard': Foreign entrepreneur falls through gaps of Covid support
Miles Avison. Photo: Montin Photography
Translator and small business owner Miles Avison tells The Local how he fell through the gaps of Covid-19 government support, being asked to return the money he was paid.

Miles has lived in Sweden for two decades and runs a small business offering translation and live event interpreting services in multiple languages.

Although nothing changed initially for his business when the pandemic struck, live events started to be cancelled, and the months following March were a huge change from the start of the year.

“When it hit for me was May, I would say, May last year, and then everything just disappeared, like dropped off a cliff,” Miles says.

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In June he decided to seek support from the state, and applied for korttidspermittering, money which covers the cost of reduced working hours.

He initially received payment to cover three months of reduced working hours just a few days after submitting his application, but the assessment was done after the payment.

In October last year he received a notification that he was required to pay back the three months payment, and would not be receiving any further support.

The reason Miles was unable to receive the support was that he had paid himself a dividend in February 2020, based on his successful 2019. that he’d paid at the start of the year. As it was documented in his annual report in March, it was included in the time frame for the financial support.

Miles was given an opportunity to fill in the form to appeal his case, but says the form only allowed him to write a few sentences to explain his situation.

“You have almost like a Tweet’s worth of information to make your case […] I wanted to talk to somebody, I wanted to talk to a person.

He says he understands why the rules are in place to avoid larger companies from exploiting the system, but he finds the process very inflexible for a small business.

“It made me angry, actually, because I was being punished for a previous year and another world where my company had done well.”

It was only after appealing that he was given the opportunity to write a longer email defending his case, but the business owner is still waiting for a response.

Inflexible rules?

Although the Swedish government has allocated billions of kronor to support businesses affected by the pandemic, Miles is not the only small business owner who says they are inflexible, leaving some struggling workers falling through the gaps.

The Local has previously reported on the case of food truck pioneer Erez Ofer, who did not qualify for support because his overall revenue increased in 2020, although he made a loss.

For Miles, business is back up and running thanks to the rise in online events, but he hopes there is a way to avoid paying back the initial support which covered difficult months for his business.

“It’s not even a huge amount of money, but it makes a difference for a small business he says”, he says, predicting that the financial support makes the difference for the company of having a loss of 70,000 kronor or 170,000 kronor.

In general he finds Sweden a good country to work in as an entrepreneur. But being a small business owner can have its challenges.

“I do find that small business owners often get a bit trodden on, their voices are often a little bit unheard,” he says, referring to this situation.

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