As lawyers and socially responsible members of society, realizing the broad public trust in our company, we have always strived to be active and useful. That is why we did not remain indifferent to the atypical and surprising all of us emergency situation in which our country and the whole world found itself at a rapid pace. In the conditions of emergency, we made every effort to contribute to a faster and more adequate response to the crisis in which business and most of society fell. With this article we will summarize some of the most important initiatives taken by law firm Dimitrova and Hadzhieva. The causes are voluntary and non-profit charitable. The initiatives are not funded by private / public organizations, and as a result of their implementation, the beneficiaries have received financial support or expert advice in dealing with the effects of the coronavirus. The causes are also related to the changes in socio-economic life caused by Covid-19: closure of nurseries, schools, kindergartens, closed businesses, unemployment and the consequences of the changes. As of June 9, 2020, each of the initiatives has been successfully completed, and at present the positive results of them continue to manifest themselves. The range of areas affected by the initiatives are: mitigating the immediate effects of the health crisis and meeting the urgent needs of the target groups (children, parents, business), tackling the economic and employment consequences of the crisis, supporting the recovery of specific sectors after the epidemic.
1. Helping travelers during Covid-19.
On March 20, 2020, at midnight in Bulgaria, all 28 regional cities were closed, and the inter-regional transition was allowed only for valid reasons such as travel to work, health reasons and others, and after a declaration was submitted. One hour after the announcement of the measure, the law firm publishes on its website sample declarations to serve the citizens to pass through the checkpoints. The Interior Ministry did not publish sample declarations until one day later. The publication can be found here.
The quick reaction of the law firm, expressed in the publication of the legally required documents, led to the fact that they were shared on social networks and downloaded by users more than 100 thousand times in just 2 days. We believe that this has made it easier for many citizens who had a good reason for their trip. The checkpoints in Bulgaria were removed on 06.05.2020, which defines the long-term impact of the initiative.
We believe that the cause should inspire the state authorities in every European country in the direction that when announcing legislative changes in areas affecting a large circle of people, solutions for citizens and businesses should also be presented. Delaying this phase could lead to unrest in the population, as well as non-compliance with the law.
The initiative was realized thanks to the preparation by a lawyer Dimitrova of 7 documents required for successful passage through checkpoints.
2. The Facebok Live Webinar “The Business and Covid-19”.
On March 22, 2020, just a few days after the declaration of the state of emergency in our country, a 2-hour completely free webinar on “Business and Covid-19” was held on the Facebook page of the law firm, during which the legal aspects of various business areas affected by Covid-19, such as turnover declines, reorganization of the work process (teleworking), monetary obligations and the coronavirus and pandemic measures such as force majeure, pandemic credit servicing, etc. .
In the first days of the declared state of emergency in our country, when borders, nurseries, kindergartens, schools, shops, etc. were closed, it was extremely important for business to organize its activities quickly and in accordance with the new situation. The webinar was organized for this purpose. It was reported by the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bulgaria and was watched by over 25,054 people on Facebook. In the short term, the lecture helped the business to take the necessary measures by acquainting its representatives with the main changes in labor, commercial and tax law. The ideas and suggestions realized by the entrepreneurs, considered during the webinar, have a beneficial effect on the business in the long run, thwarting possible future lawsuits against the business (for example, due to illegal dismissal or unjustified non-payment of rent for a commercial site).
The initiative was realized thanks to the work of the two partners in the law firm, who took a lot of time to systematize and provide relevant and useful information for citizens and businesses.
3. Support for children and parents in need.
On March 15, 2020, the law firm published on social networks a call for a donation of money for parents of 2 children in financial difficulties due to dismissal. In about a day, the law firm managed to raise the required amount.
On March 17, 2020, the law firm also organized a campaign to recruit laptops, computers and phones for parents who do not have the opportunity to purchase equipment for their children, necessary for distance learning, introduced in our country.
On March 18, 2020, the law firm launched a third campaign – to donate a school in the Bulgarian capital to 15 laptops. On March 19, 2020, the school was donated the necessary laptops by a client of the law firm, which were distributed by the director of the school to children in need.
The initiative helped more than 50 children and their parents meet their needs for equipment and money. The cause has affected their budget and needs in the short term in order to meet basic and long-term costs in terms of providing equipment for their children for the purpose of their successful presence in distance learning.
We will be happy if the initiative is an inspiration for all citizens who have a wide social circle of friends, clients and relatives who could help people in financial difficulties through personal funds or by organizing fundraising initiatives. The initiative can also be inspiring for companies that aim to be recognized as socially responsible and solidary in difficult times. Initiatives targeting other beneficiaries can also be inspired by the cause, and in particular by using the approaches applied to it.
4. Assistance to parents on unpaid leave
This initiative was aimed at parents who during the state of emergency (and after) did not receive income due to the need to use unpaid leave to care for their children who did not attend nurseries, kindergartens, schools due to the state order, with which they were closed. The lack of income was due to the exhausted paid leave for parents whose work does not imply the opportunity to work from home. Unpaid leave was the only option for all parents who do not have sufficient resources to hire support staff to care for their children at home, nor can they rely on the help of grandparents, especially given the high risk of infection for the elderly. Bulgaria had not taken any action until mid-April 2020 to protect the parent community. The law firm launched an extensive information campaign in the period 26.03-09.06 through publications on social networks (see: 1) NSSI owes compensation for caring for a child and a relative during quarantine; 2) We have sent a request for quarantine compensation); 3) We proposed to the National Assembly to clarify the compensation for parents;) and participation in television media (see 1) Lawyer Dimitrova on bTV; 2) Lawyer Dimitrova on SkatTV; 3) Lawyer Hadzhieva on Skat TV), sending proposals to government agencies, demanding immediate granting of financial assistance to these parents. The proposal was motivated by an analysis of the applicability by analogy of already settled in Bulgarian law compensation for quarantine in kindergartens, which the state refused to pay to the affected parents. In order for the initiative to succeed, the law firm also offered the state authorities specific options for granting compensation to parents, analyzing the planned state budget for 2020. A few days after the proposal was submitted, the Minister of Labor and Social Policy announced that a one-time allowance would be granted to each parent who meets certain conditions. The initiative was a remarkable success, as significant amounts of the budget were allocated to the program, which helped many parents in caring for their children who do not attend kindergartens etc.
The cause for about 2 weeks successfully ended with the granting on 11.04.2020 of one-time assistance to parents – BGN 375. The help, although symbolic, was useful for parents to cover existential necessities. Thanks to additional proposals from us, the circle of parents who can receive the assistance has been expanded, and on 09.06.2020 a legal amendment was adopted that the assistance will be monthly and not one-time, and that it will be granted not only until 13.05.2020, but until 30.09.2020 (probably longer). The amount of assistance also increased – from BGN 385 to BGN 610 for parents of one child and BGN 915 for parents with two or more children. In the long run, thousands of Bulgarian families will be supported because of the initiative. Other European countries would be inspired by the cause because of its successful outcome. The initiative is the result of voluntary and unpaid work by the partners of the law firm. As a result of the successful implementation of the initiative, Bulgaria has provided BGN 20 million for one-time assistance and BGN 85 million for the monthly allowances of parents on unpaid leave. A total of 2 people worked on the initiative, and each of them spent an average of 10 working hours per week for 2 months.
The creative approach of initiative № 1 was that in order to succeed in our requests for parental support, we drew public attention to compensation that has existed in Bulgarian law (compensation for quarantine in kindergartens) for more than 20 years, whose purpose is precisely to compensate parents on unpaid leave for the need to raise their children at home due to quarantine in a nursery or kindergarten. We are of the opinion that the purpose of this existing benefit would be achieved if parents had the same right during the state of emergency when the kindergartens and nurseries were closed. The acquaintance of the parents with the historically existing benefit, led to the fact that the latter insisted on immediate measures from the state authorities. The difference was that their closure is now due not to quarantine but to the implementation of anti-epidemic measures, but there is an analogy. The lawyers had several interviews on national television, prepared a number of opinions and proposals, which they sent to the competent authorities, but also published on social networks in a timely manner, where the cause received strong and inspiring support. The popularization of the initiative has contributed to the support of thousands of citizens and over 150 organizations (associations) working with and for children and families in Bulgaria. Absolutely the same was the method of promotion and initiative № 5. The company takes advantage of the large audience it has on social networks and through an active presence in them and in the media, managed to achieve the goals of the causes. We believe that social networks are the easy, accessible and modern method for the successful realization of causes of solidarity.
5.Proposals to parliament to take action to deal the Covid-19 pandemic
On March 25, 20, just a few days after the declaration of the state of emergency in Bulgaria, the law firm sent a comprehensive proposal to the Parliament to take national measures in support of business and freelancers. By the end of March, the state authorities had not made an active effort to support these beneficiaries, which created tension among the public. Using its legal expertise and the voluntary work of lawyers, the law firm proposed measures in the field of tax, labor and social policy, the financial sector and others. The proposal contains an analytical and in-depth argumentation on the need and means to facilitate and support small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed persons. The proposal was accompanied by a Bulgarian translation of the measures taken by other European countries to deal the effects of the coronavirus. As a result of the comprehensive proposals, in the period 09.04–11.08 the state authorities announced a package of measures, which were undoubtedly influenced by the opinion sent by us, which was supported by thousands of organizations and individuals.
The short-term impact of initiative № 5 is in several directions. First of all, after the announcement of the initiative, Bulgarian citizens and businesses received full information about the measures taken in other EU countries to support the affected entities. This affected their activity in defending their rights. Separately, shortly after the proposals were sent to the state institutions, discussions were actively held with the affected parties and legislative changes were undertaken: postponement of tax and social security obligations, easy lending, etc. In the long run, the measures initially taken were amended to take additional measures under more lenient conditions. In the proposals the legal aspects of the proposed measures were considered – how and with what mechanisms the proposed measures could be taken, what impact is expected from them, how to legislate the new rules. The approach to the initiatives could inspire other countries to successfully implement proposals from businesses and citizens through their mass promotion on the Internet and in the media. Initiatives can inspire experts in any country, motivating them in situations such as a pandemic to join forces to achieve humanitarian goals.
Initiative № 5 is also the result of voluntary work by the partners in the office and a group of volunteers (translators). As a result of its implementation, a number of tax and other reliefs were envisaged in Bulgaria, as the state guaranteed and secured loans with Bulgarian banks. A total of 9 people worked on the initiative, with 2 of them (partners) spending an average of 10 working hours per week for 40 days, and the other 7 people worked a total of 2 hours each. No other persons have been hired to realize the cause.
We hope that with these initiatives we will encourage all citizens to be better and socially engaged.