EXPLAINED: How Germany plans to support families and businesses in the pandemic

A new Kinderbonus, support for low-income earners and aid for companies and culture - here's how the government's new aid package will affect you.

EXPLAINED: How Germany plans to support families and businesses in the pandemic
A father and child playing in the snow in Hanover on January 30th. Photo: DPA

The German government has agreed a new package worth billions of euros to support people in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

The grand coalition – made up of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, the CDU's Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union and the Social Democrats – agreed on Wednesday to provide billions in support for families, low-income earners, businesses, plus the hospitality and culture industries.

“We have achieved a lot for families, for people with a difficult income situation, but also for tradespeople and the catering industry,” said SPD co-leader Norbert Walter-Borjans.

The most important thing is for Germany to offer “a bit of help” to people who had come under pressure during the tough shutdown, he added.

Here's a look at what they agreed:

KINDERBONUS: Families will receive another one-off Kinderbonus, as they did last year. The supplement to the child benefit (Kindergeld) is to be a one-time payment of €150.

Families with small and medium incomes are to benefit, as the payment will not be offset against other family or social benefits – but it will be offset against parents who receive tax relief (Kinderfreibetrag).

Last autumn families received €300 in two instalments of €150. It was paid to parents alongside Kindergeld.

The payment was billed as a thank you to parents who have had to take over the teaching and care of their children when schools and kindergartens have been closed in the pandemic. It was also part of a package that included a drop in VAT to kickstart the economy.

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to increase child benefits and provide tax relief

CORONAVIRUS GRANT AND INCOME SUPPORT: Adult recipients of social security are now also to receive a one-time grant of €150. For self-employed people and employees with low incomes who suddenly find themselves in need, the facilitated access to benefits will be extended until the end of 2021.

COMPANIES TO RECEIVE RELIEF: The grand coalition is giving companies with corona-related losses more help. By means of an extended loss carryback, affected firms will be able to offset losses against profits from previous years in their tax returns to a greater extent than before.

The government plans to double the loss carryback to a maximum of €10 million or €20 million in cases of joint tax assessment.

READ ALSO: Is Germany doing enough to ensure small businesses survive the coronavirus crisis?

VAT DROP FOR HOSPITALITY: Bars, restaurants, cafes and hotels have been hit particularly hard hit by the shutdown. Until the end of June, a reduced VAT rate of seven percent applies to food in cafés and restaurants.

The only issue is that the restaurants have been closed for in-door dining since November. Therefore, the reduced rate is now to continue to apply until the end of 2022.

Last year Germany introduced a general VAT cut from July 1st until December 31st. That is not planned this year.

CULTURE: A rescue programme called “Neustart Kultur” (Restart Culture), a comprehensive programme aimed at restarting cultural life in Germany, will be extended. On top of that, a follow-up programme with an additional fund of a billion euros will be launched.

HOW MUCH WILL THIS COST?: The coronavirus grant for recipients of basic income support and the child bonus will cost the state about €3 billion, while the programme for the cultural sector will cost €1 billion.

The lower VAT in the catering industry is to amount to about €3.5 billion.

The financial effects of the tax relief for companies are difficult to estimate at present.

According to the SPD, the new aid will come from the existing financial framework without a supplementary budget.

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now