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Norway seeks to aid companies with up to $1.9 billion per month

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's government on Friday proposed a scheme to cover fixed costs for companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak at a cost of 10 billion to 20 billion Norwegian crowns ($958 million -$1.92 billion) (786 million pounds - 1.58 billion pounds) per month.

The government said the scheme was designed to cover a part of the costs companies can't avoid paying, such as rent and insurance, and would last for two months to start with.

"The compensation scheme will help prevent thriving companies folding," Industry Minister Iselin Nyboe said in a statement.

Norway's unemployment rate has soared fivefold this month to above 10%, its highest level since the 1930s, as companies announced mass layoffs and shutdowns with the tourism and transport sectors noting the biggest jump in unemployment.

The Norwegian parliament has approved loans, tax deferments and extra spending of up to 280 billion Norwegian crowns to alleviate the impact of the crisis, while the central bank slashed its benchmark interest rate twice..

"This money from the state is completely necessary," said Ole Erik Almlid, chief executive of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), the country's main business lobby group.

(Reporting by Victoria Klesty, editing by Terje Solsvik)