Negotiations at a working desk in an office

© Kneschke

From today, applications for bridging assistance for the period from September to December 2020 can be submitted via (in German). ‘Bridging assistance II’ builds on the funding called ‘bridging assistance I’ (which ran from June to August 2020). It helps small and medium-sized enterprises, own account workers and freelancers who are particularly badly affected by the measures to combat the pandemic by providing non-repayable grants towards the fixed costs of running the business.
Economic Affairs Minister Peter Altmaier said: “We’re not abandoning our companies in the crisis. Bridging Assistance II can be applied for from today. It helps those businesses who have to remain closed, or can only go half speed ahead, due to instructions from the authorities or hygiene and distancing rules. SMEs from all sectors can obtain direct ‘bridging assistance II’ grants towards their fixed costs, and do not need to repay these grants. We have further improved and relaxed the conditions for this. For example, the €15,000 ceiling on assistance for companies with up to ten employees has been lifted. Higher funding rates are also available for companies whose business remains at a virtual standstill, e.g. in the events and fairground sectors. Furthermore, companies whose turnover has slumped by 30% or more from last year’s level can now apply for bridging assistance. And the Federal Government is working on an extension of the assistance beyond December. The conference of minister-presidents decided this on 14 October. We are currently sorting out the details.”

In view of rising infection numbers, bridging assistance II will also continue to provide funding from September to December 2020 for measures to temporarily move operations to outdoor areas where the risks of infection are lower. Funding can for example go towards the acquisition of hospitality tents and patio heaters. This supplements the funding already available for disease-prevention measures, such as the purchase of disinfectants and air filters.

As in the preceding system, the application is submitted via an ‘auditing third party’ (tax adviser, accountant, auditor, lawyer) who will generally already be familiar with the applicant company. This preliminary check will make it possible for the authorities to take quick decisions and rapidly pay out the assistance. The processing and the disbursement will be handled by the Länder approval bodies.

It remains the case that bridging assistance is open to companies from all sectors which are particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to improve the reach to those companies in particular whose business is still badly affected by official restrictions or hygiene and distancing rules, the following changes have been made to the programme:

  1. A more flexible eligibility threshold: In future, applicants shall be eligible if they have had

    - either a fall in sales of at least 50% in two consecutive months in the period April to August 2020 compared to the respective months in the previous year

    - or an average fall in sales of at least 30% in the months April to August 2020 compared to the same period in the previous year.

  2. Abolition of the ceilings of €9,000 and €15,000 which previously applied to SMEs.
  3. Increase in the funding rates. In future, the following will be reimbursed:

    - 90% of the fixed costs for those having lost more than 70% of their turnover (previously 80% of fixed costs),

    - 60% of the fixed costs for those having lost between 50% and 70% of their turnover (previously 50% of fixed costs) and

    - 40% of the fixed costs for those having lost more than 30% of their turnover (previously a drop of more than 40% in turnover).

  4. The flat rate of 10% of eligible costs to help cover personnel costs is raised to 20%.
  5. When at a future date the final level of assistance is determined, recipients of funding may be eligible to receive supplementary payments or liable to repay (some of) the assistance received.