Coronavirus: Germany to give stricken small firms up to €50,000 a month

Germany's economy ministry on Monday unveiled plans to ramp up support for hard-hit smaller companies, proposing as much as €50,000 in monthly aid to help the nation's vaunted "Mittelstand" survive the coronavirus crisis.

Coronavirus: Germany to give stricken small firms up to €50,000 a month
An employee at the firm Dürr AG in Bietigheim-Bissingen, Baden-Württemberg assembling a robot used for painting. Photo: DPA

The proposal, seen by AFP, is currently being discussed with the finance ministry and is aimed at helping firms cover their fixed costs from June to December as the pandemic pushes Europe's top economy into its worst recession in decades.

“Time is running out for some companies,” a spokeswoman for Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said.

To qualify for the support, applicants must prove that their revenues plunged by at least 60 percent year-on-year in April and May, when the impact of the coronavirus lockdowns hit hardest.

The aid, up to a maximum of 50,000 a month, would be available to freelancers and companies that employ up to 249 workers.

The plan is expected to cost the German state some 25 billion by August, the economy ministry's proposal showed. The total price tag will depend on how the country copes with the virus in the later months of the year.

Germany has already launched a huge rescue package worth 1.1 trillion to steer the country through the coronavirus-induced downturn, even ditching its cherished policy of maintaining a balanced budget to finance the stimulus.

READ ALSO: Germany plans €40 billion 'rescue package' for freelancers and small businesses

The massive package includes state-backed loan guarantees, cash injections and schemes to put millions of workers on reduced hours to avoid layoffs.

Having weathered the coronavirus outbreak better than many of its neighbours so far, Germany has gradually started loosening restrictions in recent weeks.

Shops, factories and restaurants are cautiously reopening but the economic damage is far from over as social distancing rules prevent a return to business as usual.

Economy Minister Altmaier's latest plan is specifically targeted at supporting Germany's “Mittelstand”, the tens of thousands of small- and medium-sized firms considered the backbone of the country's economy.

Many of them make highly specialised products for niche markets, such as high-tech parts for medical devices or factory equipment, making them crucial to Germany's success as an export champion.

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German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

Health ministers in Germany's 16 states say that the requirement to wear face masks on local public transport should remain in place throughout autumn and winter.

German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

As part of Germany’s planned Covid regulations from October onwards, people will have to wear FFP2 masks on long-distance transport, such as trains.

However, states are able to decide themselves on any mask requirements for local buses, trains, and trams. 

On Monday, state health ministers agreed that they were in favour of keeping the mask mandate on public transport across Germany.

According to the health ministry in Saxony-Anhalt, which currently holds the presidency of the Conference of Health Ministers, the aim is to have uniform rules in all states when it comes to masks on transit. 

It comes after some people raised concerns that Germany would see a patchwork of different rules across the states.

As The Local has been reporting, the Bundestag last week passed a set of Covid regulations that will be in place from October 1st until April 7th 2023.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS – Germany’s new Covid-19 rules for autumn

The plan includes some measures that will apply nationwide, while the states can decide on regional requirements depending on the pandemic situation.

Across Germany, FFP2 masks will be mandatory on long-distance trains and buses as well as in health and care settings, such as GP offices. There will no longer be a requirement to wear masks on planes in Germany.

Approval of the legal framework is still needed from the Bundesrat, which represents the states. That is expected to take place on Friday.