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COST OF LIVING

What students in Germany should know about the €200 energy payout

Germany agreed to offer a €200 lump sum to support students and trainees with higher energy bills. Here's what we know.

Students sit in a lecture at Hanover University.
Students sit in a lecture at Hanover University. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

What’s happening?

Students in Germany can look forward to a bit of extra cash in the near future: a €200 energy relief payout was agreed upon in Germany’s Bundestag on Wednesday. 

Details of the one-off payment for students were originally set out in the government’s third energy relief package, which included a range of measures to help the population with the rising cost of living.

Students are the third group to receive a lump sum for their energy bills. In September, employees in Germany received €300 on top of their usual wages, while pensioners are also set to get a €300 payout by December 15th.

Who’s eligible for the payment – and when can they get it? 

Around 3.4 million students enrolled in programmes at a university or technical college will be eligible for the payout, provided they have their main residence in Germany. Technical colleges, or Fachhochschulen, are specialised universities where teachers, engineers and business administrators are trained. 

Regardless of whether students are undertaking an academic or vocational programme, the main criterion for eligibility will be that they are enrolled at a higher education institute by December 1st this year. 

According to the Ministry of Education, students will receive the money in early 2023, although an exact date hasn’t been named.

READ ALSO: When will people in Germany get their December gas bill payout?

How do students and trainees get it?

Unlike the energy relief payments for employees and pensioners this year, students won’t receive their €200 payment automatically. 

Instead, the Education Ministry is working to create a digital platform where students can apply for the money. It is still a bit up in the air when students will be able to submit their claims or when the deadline will be. 

Germany is set to spend €680 million for around 2.95 million students and 450,000 pupils. The flat-rate energy allowance is not to be taxed or counted toward any social benefits.

Why are students receiving financial support?

With inflation soaring to record levels in recent months, many students – who often rely on minimum-wage jobs and so-called Bafög grants – have been struggling to make ends meet.

On Wednesday, data released by the Federal Office of Statistics revealed that 38 percent of students in Germany were at risk of falling below the poverty line last year.

People who earn less than 60 percent of the median income in Germany are considered to be at risk of poverty, according to the EU.

Since low-income households are disproportionately affected by the rising cost of living, the government has pledged to step in with additional financial support. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Germany

What are people saying?

Speaking to Handelsblatt earlier in November, the German Student Union hit out at the government for dragging its feet on the payout since deciding on the measure in September. 

Many students need the money now because of exploding prices, secretary general Matthias Anbuhl explained. He said the Bundestag must now pass the one-off payment quickly and the money must be paid out as soon as possible.

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For members

ENERGY

REVEALED: Germany’s planned hardship fund to help with energy bills

The gas and electricity price caps are coming, and the government wants to pay people's energy bills in December - but will that be enough to stop people falling into hardship? Germany's Economics Ministry thinks it won't be and has drafted plans for a new hardship fund. Here's what you need to know.

REVEALED: Germany's planned hardship fund to help with energy bills

When Germany’s traffic light coalition parties – the SPD, Greens and FDP – took office last December, they had no idea that they would be facing an energy crisis on such a major scale.

But with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sending the gas market into turmoil, the coalition’s big plans have been put on the backburner as they work out how best to support people with rising costs. 

Under the latest set of energy relief measures put forward by the Gas Price Commission, the government will shoulder the cost of people’s energy bills this December. It also plans to introduce a cap on both electricity and gas prices, which will come into force next March and be backdated to January.

READ ALSO: Germany plans to cap energy prices from start of 2023

This multi-billion relief package is likely to soften the blow for many households, but according to a new government document obtained by Bild, ministers are concerned that it won’t be enough to stop many people – and businesses – falling into financial hardship.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, federal and state economists ministers want to set aside billions more for additional aid. 

Here’s who can get hold of the extra cash – and how.

Renters and private home owners

People who rent an apartment in Germany and home owners who live in their properties can access additional help from the state if they can prove they’re over-burdened by their heating and energy costs.

That could be due to an eye-wateringly high back-payment for energy bills demanded by the landlord or due to the fact that they have to purchase expensive fuel such as wood pellets for heating. 

More specifically, people claiming unemployment benefits such as Bürgergeld can get some extra cash from the Jobcenter after their bills are calculated by the landlord. If they’re facing a hefty back-payment, or Nachzahlung, they can get up to three months of Bürgergeld retroactively to help cover the costs. 

In addition, someone who wants to claim Bürgergeld for a single month will be spared from having to prove the amount of money they have in the bank. Under the ordinary rules for Bürgergeld claimants, job seekers must have less than €40,000 in savings.

According to the government’s calculations, this emergency buffer is set to cost around €500 million. Claims for additional support will be handled by the job centres or social offices.

Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs)

Small business owners have been among the hardest hit by the energy crisis – but luckily help may be on its way. 

In the document obtained by Bild, ministers say they assume that the gas and electricity price cap will be an adequate level of support for most SMEs. Nevertheless, there could be a few circumstances in which business owners slip through the net:

  • Business owners may already be facing huge hikes in their energy bills before the price caps come into force, for example in the form of a big back-payment for energy costs over several months, or
  • Businesses may find that, due to exceptional circumstances, they’re still unable to pay their bills – even after the price caps are introduced. 

In these two scenarios, SMEs can apply for extra support from the government. 

To be eligible, businesses must either show that their energy costs quadrupled at least three months between January and November 2022, or they’ll have to show that their energy costs have also multiplied in spite of the energy price cap and that their business is highly energy-intensive or costly.

The government expects this support package to cost around €1 billion and says that the details will be worked out after state premiers agree to the proposals.  

READ ALSO: How electricity prices are rising across Germany

Housing companies 

Large landlords could also be in line for some additional government aid under the ministers’ plans. Due to the way the current rental system works, many are paying high bills for heating and energy that they’re not yet able to recoup from tenants in the end-of-year bill.

Housing complexes in Berlin.

Housing complexes in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Monika Skolimowska

To help housing companies that are in this situation, the government wants to offer loans that could help tide them over. Twenty percent of this credit would be secured by the federal states, and the measure is expected to cost around €1.1 billion. 

Hospitals and care homes  

Care facilities and clinics face exorbitant energy bills – even in ordinary times – so this group of institutions will also be given financial aid, the draft said.

This will come in the form of a one-off support payment and ongoing support with gas and electricity bills. Hospitals and care homes will in many cases get their additional costs for energy completely refunded by the state until April 2024. Social agencies and social service providers will also be given subsidies and financial aid to help deal with their increased overheads. 

In addition, cultural sites and facilities like museums and art galleries will get subsidies intended to flatten out the rise in energy costs. In most cases, the energy price cap only applies to 80 percent of a business’ ordinary consumption, but this limit will be dispensed with for cultural institutions. 

However, the government says it still wants to incentive energy-saving measures as well as offering financial support. 

READ ALSO: When will people in Germany get their December gas bill payout?

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