With closures and restrictions due to COVID-19 still continuing in some sectors, the Federal Government is extending the Bridging Assistance programme for companies and own-account workers affected by this. The assistance will be granted up until 30 September 2021 in the form of Bridging Assistance III Plus. The tried and tested requirements and conditions will continue to apply. There will also be a new re-start premium, which will allow companies to claim a higher grant towards their labour costs. New Start Assistance will also continue to be provided in the form of New Start Assistance Plus.
Says Economic Affairs Minister Altmaier: “We are extending our COVID-19 assistance until 30 September 2021. In doing so, we are sending out an important signal to companies, so that they will be able to really step on the accelerator after the crisis. Fortunately, business is back again, but not for everyone as yet. This is why we are sending out a clear signal to those that still need assistance, so that they have the security and certainty they need to plan on. We are providing incentives for businesses to relaunch and are offering a re-start premium to those who call back their employees from short-time work or hire new staff. Finally, we are also extending the New Start Assistance programme for own-account workers and raising the support ceiling to up to €12,000 for the first three quarters of the year.”
Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz states: “Germany has weathered the economic storm of the crisis better than many others, thanks to the Federal Government’s determined support. And we are not ending this support this close to the finishing line – that would be economic nonsense. Instead, we are extending the Bridging Assistance programme. Despite the fact that falling infection levels are giving us reason to hope that the pandemic is coming to an end, many companies are still affected by the repercussions of the pandemic. This is why we continue to stand by our companies and their employees. This is good news for everyone. The grant ceilings for COVID-19 assistance will be raised. We are further expanding New Start Assistance for own-account workers. To me, it is especially important that employees will also benefit directly, which they will in the form of an extension of the short-time work allowance and also through the re-start premium. This latter is a new and socially equitable element of our broad-based assistance toolbox, giving companies an incentive to end short-time work and hire new employees. Also fair and equitable is the rule that companies that receive Bridging Assistance cannot distribute profits or dividends. Nor can they offer bonus payments or buy back shares.”
The Federal Government is also raising the ceilings for assistance under Bridging Assistance III and Bridging Assistance III Plus. In future, companies that are directly or indirectly affected by government-mandated closures can claim up to €40 million in compensation for damages under the Bridging Assistance programme. The federal provision serving as the basis for this has been approved by the European Commission at the request of the Federal Government. The maximum funding rate available under Bridging Assistance III and Bridging Assistance III Plus is €52 million (including the €12 million that have hitherto been the upper limit). Applications for compensation for damages under the new provision will soon be accepted. Any assistance beyond the former ceiling of €12 million is provided subject to restrictions on the distribution of profits or dividends, share repurchasing, and bonus payments. These restrictions are modelled upon the ones applying under the 2020 KfW Special Programme and the Economic Stabilisation Fund.
Additional information on the continuation of Bridging Assistance III
Bridging Assistance III is extended through the new Bridging Assistance III Plus programme, whose substance is largely identical with Bridging Assistance III. As was the case with Bridging Assistance III, applications for Bridging Assistance III Plus can only be filed by companies whose turnover fell by at least 30% due to COVID-19. Applications under the new programme must again be filed by a third party scrutinising the application.
For both programmes together, the following applies:
- The maximum monthly funding available under Bridging Assistance III and Bridging Assistance III Plus is €10 million.
- The ceiling for funding from both programmes is €52 million, of which €12 million under the existing EU State-aid framework (small amount of compatible aid, de minimis, support for uncovered fixed costs), and €40 million under the new State-aid framework, i.e. the federal provision on compensation for damages. The new EU provision on compensation for damages applies to companies that are directly or indirectly affected by government-mandated closures. These will be able to claim up to €40 million in compensation for damages.
New elements of Bridging Assistance III Plus:
- Companies that call back employees from short-time work, hire new staff, or otherwise raise the level of employment as they re-open, have the option of claiming a grant towards the resulting higher labour costs (re-stat premium). This grant is provided in addition to the existing flat rate support to cover labour costs. They will receive a premium worth 60% of the difference between their actual labour costs in May 2021 and in July 2021. In August, the grant will amount to 40%, before being reduced to 20% in September 2021, after which point it will be ended.
- In future, companies will be compensated for up to €20,000 in monthly legal fees for corporate restructuring in the face of an impending insolvency.
- The New Start Assistance programme for own-account workers will be extended. The maximum monthly amount of assistance available will be increased from €1,250 (January to June 2021) to €1,500 (July to September 2021).Across the entire funding period (January to September 2021), own-account workers can therefore claim up to €12,000.
The FAQs on Bridging Assistance III are being revised and will be published shortly. Once the adjustments have been made to the programme, applications can be submitted via the usual platform: . The Länder are responsible for processing the applications and disbursing the assistance.
The assistance provided by the Länder in cases of hardship are also to be extended until the end of September 2021, in line with the Bridging Assistance programme.