Germany releases second tranche of aid for businesses hit by pandemic

Businesses in Germany that have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis can access further aid from Wednesday, when Economy Minister Peter Altmaier announced a second tranche of funds to tide them over.

Firms can apply for subsidies for fixed operating costs such as rent for the September-to-December period, a statement said.

Businesses must be able to show significant losses in revenue in order to be eligible.

Help is also available to business owners who are affected by local restrictions such as hygiene and distancing rules.

“We will not leave our companies alone in the crisis,” Altmaier said.

Germany’s federal and state governments have already agreed to extend the so-called tideover allowance by half a year, until the end of June 2021.

Some 25 billion euros (29.6 billion dollars) has been earmarked for the emergency programme, which, together with a government-funded furlough scheme, is designed to prevent a wave of insolvencies after the pandemic plunged Europe’s largest economy into recession.

According to the Economy Ministry, only 1.2 billion euros of the funding for subsidies has so far been disbursed.

The ministry said that aid for the autumn and winter months could also help businesses to move operations outdoors in a bid to curb the spread of infection – for example with funding for tents and heaters.

In Berlin, around 150 police raided a number of businesses and a mosque suspected of fraudulently claiming subsidies related to the pandemic, seizing 7,000 euros in cash, data storage devices, computers and files.

Prosecutors said the raid was aimed at three suspects who had applied for a total of 70,000 euros, of which 45,000 had been paid out. Some of the money is alleged to have been paid into the account of the mosque in the Kreuzberg part of the city.

In an earlier case in the German capital, the head of a cleaning firm received a suspended sentence for making an unjustified application for subsidy.

The authorities are taking a hard line. Fraudulent applications constitute a crime, even if no money has been paid out.

Separately, Culture Minister Monika Gruetters announced 30 million euros in subsidies for private theatres, which are struggling under ongoing restrictions following a complete shutdown earlier in the year.

Germany is currently recording more daily coronavirus cases than at the start of the pandemic in March, although testing has been ramped up significantly since then.

So far, 380,762 cases of infection have been confirmed and 9,875 deaths, according to the national disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute.

According to the latest forecast from the ifo Institute in Munich, the German economy is expected to contract by 5.2 per cent this year and is not projected to return to pre-crisis levels until late 2021.

The brunt of the crisis hit in the second quarter, when sweeping closures and restrictions on public life led to a 9.7-per-cent plunge.

Germany’s Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) is scheduled to release third-quarter economic-output data on October 30, with analysts expecting a strong rebound of 6.6-per-cent growth.

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