In implementation of the decision by the Conference of Minister-Presidents of 18 November 2021 and in light of today's decision by the same, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs have agreed on the terms of the COVID-19 assistance, which has been extended until the end of March 2022. The setting of these terms provides companies with security and support as they continue to suffer the consequences of the restrictions introduced on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bridging Assistance III Plus and New Start Assistance Plus for self-employed persons are presently in effect until 31 December 2021. Applications for assistance are currently able to be submitted under both programmes and payments are being made under each.
The previous Bridging Assistance III Plus will now be essentially continued as Bridging Assistance IV until the end of March 2022. Companies will continue to receive reimbursement for fixed costs under Bridging Assistance IV. In addition, companies that have been particularly hard hit and affected by closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will receive an additional equity grant. This instrument already existed as part of Bridging Assistance III and Bridging Assistance III Plus, but is now being adapted and improved under Bridging Assistance IV. As a result, businesses affected by the cancellation of Advent and Christmas markets in particular – such as fairground operators, market traders and private organisers – will now receive wider assistance.
The well-proven New Start Assistance for own-account workers is also being continued. Under the New Start-Up Assistance 2022, own-account workers can continue to receive up to €1,500 per month in direct grants, i.e. a total of up to €4,500 for the extended period of assistance.
The FAQ for Bridging Assistance IV and New Start Assistance 2022 will be published shortly. Once the adjustments to the programme have been made, applications can be submitted via the usual platform: . Advance payments are also being provided under Bridging Assistance IV.
Terms of assistance in detail
The new Bridging Assistance IV is largely identical in substance to the current Bridging Assistance III Plus.
To be eligible for assistance, applicants continue to have to fulfil the same basic criterion of a 30 per cent decrease in sales as a result of the pandemic compared to the 2019 reference period. The maximum rate of assistance for eligible fixed costs is 90 per cent in cases where there has been a decline in sales of more than 70 per cent. The comprehensive list of eligible cost items also remains largely unchanged. This includes rent and lease costs, interest on loans, maintenance costs, insurance, etc., for which assistance can still be claimed. The opportunity to claim reimbursement for cost items such as modernisation or renovation, which has already been utilised by many companies since the November 2020 assistance period, will no longer be offered.
In addition, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs have agreed to make use of extended scope under State aid law, which the European Commission approved last week, for defining the terms of Bridging Assistance IV. Overall, the maximum thresholds under State aid law have been increased by €2.5 million. This means that a maximum of €54.5 million in assistance can be granted per company and group of companies across all programmes while still complying with the rules on State aid. The maximum amount of monthly assistance that can be provided continues to be €10 million.
Where companies and groups of companies suffer an average pandemic-related decline in revenue of at least 50 per cent in December 2021 and January 2022, they are eligible under Bridging Assistance IV to receive up to a 30 per cent higher rate of reimbursement for fixed costs under nos. 1 to 11 of the published fixed costs catalogue.
For fairground operators, market traders and private organisers of cancelled Advent and Christmas markets, the equity grant is 50 per cent. To be eligible to receive this grant, such persons must demonstrate that they have suffered a decline in sales of at least 50 per cent in December 2021.
In order to give all applicants and scrutinising third parties a better opportunity to take advantage of the assistance programmes, the application deadlines for assistance have also been extended in tandem with the broadening of the assistance. Applications for the current Bridging Assistance III Plus can be filed up to 31 March 2022, and the deadline for the submission of final accounts for the assistance programmes that have already expired (Bridging Assistance I-III, November and December Assistance) has been extended until 31 December 2022.
Additional support through the improved equity grant
Companies that have been particularly hard hit by pandemic-related closures will now receive an additional modified and improved equity grant to strengthen their business.