German cities to receive extra €57 billion in aid to weather corona crisis

Germany's Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is planning an aid package worth €57 billion to help local authorities weather the devastating economic storm unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic, German media reported Saturday.

German cities to receive extra €57 billion in aid to weather corona crisis
Scholz speaking on Saturday in Berlin at the SPD headquarters. Photo: DPA

The help would come on top of an aid package worth a staggering 1.1 trillion rushed through parliament to shield Europe's biggest economy from the fallout of the pandemic.

The latest support would include an emergency aid component making up for lost tax revenues from crisis-hit businesses, newspapers Rheinische Post and Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung reported, citing a finance ministry proposal.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus in Germany: Who will receive financial help – and how much?

All affected municipalities will “receive a lump-sum compensation for their lower corporate tax revenues,” the newspapers said.

Half of the cost of this compensation would be borne by the federal government, and the other half by state authorities.

Latest estimates from the ministry show that this year's corporate tax intake of local authorities would come in 11.8 billion short of a previous forecast.

In addition, the package would offer help to the most heavily-indebted municipalities.

The federal government will take on half of the debt incurred by the 2,000 most heavily-indebted municipalities — which was estimated at 45 billion in 2018.

“This protection shield should not only get cities and municipalities through the current difficult situation, but also put them permanently in a position where they can better perform their tasks,” Scholz, from the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), told Rheinische Post.

Underlining the unprecedented scale of the crisis unleashed by the pandemic, Germany has opened its coffers to help shore up the economy, which was headed for “the worst recession” in its post-war history.

READ ALSO: Germany braces for 'worst recession' in post-war history

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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.