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Defying the crisis: December Assistance Programme begins, Bridging Assistance Progrmame is significantly expanded and extended
In order to help the companies, businesses, self-employed persons, associations and institutions (hereinafter: companies) affected by the temporary closures linked to the crisis, exceptional economic assistance (November Assistance) has been available since Wednesday, 25 November 2020. The provision of this assistance is now being extended until 20 December 2020, in line with the requirements set by EU State aid rules. This means that companies affected by coronavirus-related closures will be able to apply for grants of up to 75% of the turnover generated in the same period in 2019 for the duration of the measures in December.
As business activity will continue to be restricted in many sectors of the economy, Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier have also agreed to extend the current Bridging Assistance Programme until the end of June 2021, and to expand it significantly once more. The Bridging Assistance Programme supports companies that are being particularly hard hit by the measures taken to tackle the pandemic. It provides them with a direct grant that does not have to be repaid.
Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz said: “The coronavirus pandemic still has us firmly in its grip. The restrictions are bearing down on us; everyone’s resilience is being tested. We must therefore continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who bear the economic burden and to tackle the crisis with resolve. The Bridging Assistance Programme will be significantly improved once again, and December Assistance will available also without undue bureaucracy. This costs a lot of money, but the alternative is a wave of company bankruptcies and redundancies, which would be even more expensive for all of us. Together we will master this; together we are ready for anything”.
Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier said: “The coronavirus pandemic will keep placing demands on us and our economy for some time to come. Cohesion and solidarity therefore remain the order of the day. We will not leave our companies and their employees on their own in these difficult times. By providing support for the month of December, we are ensuring that there will be no gap in solidarity in this month either. For the coming year, we are extending and expanding Bridging Assistance III until the end of June 2021. The previous maximum support of €50,000 per month is being raised under Bridging Assistance III to up to €200,000. Under Bridging Assistance III, New Start Assistance will be available to support own-account workers, providing them with a lump sum for operating costs of up to €5000. The New Start Assistance is thus a key component of this support, especially for many in the culture and media industry battling through the pandemic on their own”.
Overview of the December Assistance Programme:
The total funding available under the December Assistance Programme is expected to amount to approximately €4.5 billion per week.
Applications can be made by companies directly affected by the temporary closures or that are indirectly affected, according to the November Assistance Programme rules.
The December Assistance Programme will in principle again provide pro rata grants of up to 75% of the turnover in December 2019 based on the number of days of closure in December 2020. European State aid law allows for subsidies of up to a current total of €1 million to be paid, without the claimant having to provide specific evidence of damage. To the extent that the companies’ scope under State aid law allows – i.e. taking into account the aid they have already been granted, the vast majority of companies will thus be able to paid the subsidy of up to 75% of their turnover for the same month in the preceding year. The provision of grants of between €1 and €4 million euros under the federal framework for assistance for fixed costs had been approved by Brussels. In addition, the Federal Government will work with the European Commission to ensure that the maximum level of small amounts of aid and aid for fixed costs under the Temporary Framework are significantly increased. In order to provide grants of more than €4 million, further coordination with the European Commission is needed in order to obtain separate approval based on the provisions on compensation for damage under EU State aid law.
The application process is currently being prepared. It is therefore not yet possible to make a more precise statement on submission dates. However, applications will once again be able to be made via the Bridging Assistance website (www.ueberbrueckungshilfe-unternehmen.de [in German]). Applications can be submitted via tax consultants, auditors or other third parties, as is the case with the November Assistance Programme. Own-account workers applying for a grant of less than €5,000 can submit their applications directly using their ELSTER certificate.
Overview of Bridging Assistance III:
November and December “windows” in the Bridging Assistance: For the months of November and December 2020, access to Bridging Assistance is being extended to companies that have suffered a drop in turnover of at least 40% compared to the respective month in the preceding year and that were not able to claim November and/or December Assistance. This will help additional companies that were hit hard by forced closures in November and December 2020 but were not covered by November and/or December Assistance. Apart from this, the access threshold of a 50% drop in turnover for two consecutive months or of 30% since April 2020 will be maintained.
Increase in the maximum amount of funding per month from €50,000 euros to €200,000, and extension of eligibility to larger firms (removal of the restriction to small and medium-sized enterprises). All companies up to a maximum annual turnover of €500 million in Germany are now eligible to apply.
Particular attention will be paid to the situation of own-account workers. Since these persons are usually only able to prove a low level of fixed costs according to the cost catalogue – such as rent or leasing costs – and have therefore benefited only little from the Bridging Assistance to date, they can in future apply for a one-off lump sum to cover operating costs totalling 25% of the comparative turnover – the ‘New Start Assistance’. They will thus receive a one-off grant of up to €5,000 euros.
The catalogue of eligible costs will be extended to include structural modernisation, renovation or conversion measures costing up to €20,000 for the purposes of improving hygiene. This will help businesses undertaking efforts to meet hygiene requirements. In addition, support is also being made available for marketing and advertising costs, up to a maximum of the expenditure made over the corresponding period in 2019.
Support of up to 50% is being provided for the depreciation of assets. For example, a showman who has bought a carousel and financed it via credit or from his own capital can apply for half of the monthly depreciation as costs.
The sector-specific support for fixed costs in the travel industry will be extended. Support will continue to be available for travel agencies that suffer a loss of/have to repay commissions and for tour operators facing the same situation for comparable margins due to coronavirus-related cancellations. The restriction of support to package holidays is being removed. Last-minute bookings will also be taken into account. Furthermore, in addition to the support for commissions and margins in the first half of 2021, external cancellation costs and internal costs in the form of higher flat-rate personnel costs for the period March to December 2020 are also eligible for support in the travel industry.
Companies in the events and culture industry can claim cancellation costs for the period March to December 2020. Both internal downtime and external cancellation costs are eligible.
Plans are under way to establish a special fund for the cultural sector,the aim of which is to enable bonus payments for cultural events and cushion the risk of events planning in spite of the uncertainty created by the pandemic. Work on the details is still ongoing.
In the future, own-account workers will be entitled to apply directly for up to €5,000, subject to special identification requirements (i.e. without the need for a tax consultant etc. to be involved).