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How freelancers and small businesses can apply for coronavirus payments in Germany

Are you a freelancer, self-employed or have a small business? Here's where to apply for financial help if you're affected by the coronavirus pandemic in Germany.

How freelancers and small businesses can apply for coronavirus payments in Germany
A shop in Berlin displaying a closed sign. Many businesses are affected by the corona crisis. Photo: DPA

The coronavirus pandemic is having massive economic consequences, with many people in Germany and beyond losing their jobs or facing financial difficulties.

In fact, experts estimated on Monday that social distancing measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak, which include closing non-essential shops and shutting down public life, will slash German 2020 economic output by 2.8 to 5.4 percent before a rebound next year.

“The German economy will shrink significantly in 2020,” the so-called “Wise Men” expert panel (SVR) said, with the exact size of the impact “depending on the extent and duration of health policy measures and the subsequent recovery, reported AFP.

The federal government and Germany's 16 states have vowed to provide cash to people affected.

Here's an overview of how to apply for it if you're a freelancer, self-employed or small business. States may offer different procedures and payments. Please contact your relevant authority for more information.

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How do you know if you’re eligible?

You must be registered with a German tax office and carry out work from a German permanent establishment/address or a German management headquarters.

Scope of immediate aid: self-employed people and companies with up to five employees can apply for a non repayable one-off grant of up to €9,000

Companies with up to 10 employees can apply for a grant of up to €15,000. Both sums are valid for three months.

Proof of cash difficulties: The applicant must confirm that he/she has encountered financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Companies must not have already been in financial difficulties on December 31st 2019.

Application deadline: Applications must be submitted by May 31st 2020 at the latest.

READ ALSO: Buy from The Local's readers – help each other through tough times

What's the application procedure?

The Emergency Aid Programme (das Soforthilfe-Programm) involves a bureaucratic application procedure but aims to ensure a rapid payout.

The information provided in the application must be correct – false information may constitute fraud and lead to criminal prosecution. Applications can soon be submitted electronically to the responsible contacts in the state where you live.

It's important to note that you must submit your applications to the competent authority in your federal state.

Here's an overview of where to apply and who to contact for more information.

READ ALSO: Bundestag approves historic coronavirus rescue package

BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG:

Application to and preliminary assessment by Industrie und Handelskammern (IHK) and Handwerkskammern (HWK), approval through L-Bank. For more information and to apply, visit this site.

BAVARIA:

Moderated by district governments and the City of Munich. For more information and to apply, visit this site.

BERLIN:

Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB). For more information and to apply, visit this site.

BRANDENBURG:

Investitionsbank des Landes Brandenburg (ILB). For more information and to apply, visit this site.

BREMEN:

BAB Bremer Aufbau Bank BIS Bremerhavener Gesellschaft for Investment Promotion and Urban Development mbH. For more information and to apply, visit this site.

HAMBURG:

Hamburg Investment and Development Bank (IFB Hamburg). For more information and to apply, visit this site.

HESSE:

Kassel Regional Council. For more information and to apply, visit this site.

MECKLENBURG-WESTERN POMERANIA:

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania State Development Institute (LFI-MV). For more information and to apply, visit this site.

LOWER SAXONY:

Lower Saxony Investment and Development Bank – NBank. For more information and to apply click here.

NORTH RHINE-WESTPHALIA:

District governments of Arnsberg, Detmold, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Münster. For more information and to apply, visit this site.

RHINELAND-PALATINATE:

Investment and Structural Bank RP (ISB). For more information and to apply, visit this site.

SAARLAND:

Saarland Ministry of Economics, Labor, Energy and Transport. For more information and to apply, visit this site.

SAXONY:

Saxon Reconstruction Bank – Development Bank (SAB). For more information and to apply, visit this site.

SAXONY-ANHALT:

Saxony-Anhalt Investment Bank. For more information and to apply, visit this site.

SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN:

Investitionsbank Schleswig-Holstein (IB.SH). For more information and to apply, visit this site.

THURINGIA:

Thuringia Reconstruction Bank. The acceptance of applications and preliminary tests are also carried out by the IHKn and HWKn. For more information and to apply, visit this site.

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point. 

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