Blümel/Köstinger: Rapid assistance vital to support businesses and workers

At a press conference held on 2 December, Finance Minister Gernot Blümel and Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger set out the substantial economic support on offer to Austrian businesses during these difficult times of the pandemic.

"With turnover loss bonus, we have launched a very effective and broad-based assistance package. During the course of the pandemic, we have consistently learned along the way, adjusting and improving the support offered. However, for businesses and workers, what matters is not only the volume of assistance, but also having rapid access to the cash provided. In order to provide even faster support, in future it will be possible to submit applications for turnover loss bonus from the 10th day of a month for the preceding month. This means we will be able to make initial payments even before Christmas," explains Finance Minister Blümel.

Hardship fund from 1 December

The current situation is hitting businesses of all sizes. Particularly for micro-businesses and the self-employed, a loss of turnover in the run-up to Christmas can pose a real threat. For this group in particular, the hardship fund has proved to be a key instrument.

"Since the beginning of the crisis, through the Economic Chamber alone, we have paid out EUR 2.2 billion and thus, in total, supported over 230 000 businesses. One of our first measures now, from 1 December, will be to reactivate the hardship fund, which was previously phased out in September; this will be of the greatest assistance for micro-businesses," explains Blümel.

For the period November 2021 until March 2022, applications can be made for an amount totalling up to EUR 2 000 per month. Applications are open to businesses established during the period prior to 1 November 2021 and suffering turnover losses of 30 % (November and December) or 40 % (from January).

Applications open for turnover loss bonus on 10 December

Key features of turnover loss bonus:

  • At least 30 % turnover losses in November and December, or 40 % from January to March (as compared with November, December and March 2019/January and February 2020)
  • Compensation level: 10 % – 40 % of turnover loss, depending on sector cost structure
  • Maximum payment: EUR 2.3 million (instead of EUR 1.8 million)
  • Period: November 2021 - March 2022.
  • Applications open: From 10 December 2021
  • New businesses formed up to 1 November 2021 are eligible to apply

Loss compensation scheme

Key features of loss compensation scheme:

  • At least 50 % turnover losses from November to December compared with November/December 2019/at least 40 % turnover losses from January to March compared with January, February and March 2019
  • Compensation level: 70 % – 90 % of losses
  • Maximum payment: EUR 12 million (instead of EUR 10 million)
  • Period: January 2022 - March 2022. Applications open: Early 2022
  • New businesses formed up to 1 November 2021 are eligible to apply

Protection Scheme for the Events Industry    

The Protection Scheme for the Events Industry serves to mitigate financial losses incurred in the event of cancellation due to COVID-19 or significant restrictions on an event.

As Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger explains: "So far, over 880 applications have been approved, with a grant volume of EUR 270 million. New applications can be filed with the Austrian Hotel and Tourism Bank [ÖHT] up to mid 2022 for events scheduled up to 30 June 2023."

No fees or commissions are charged for applications or processing of assistance under either Protection Scheme I or Protection Scheme II.

Insolvency protection for travel agencies and other package tour providers

With over 2 600 operators, travel agencies have been particularly hard hit by the effects of the coronavirus crisis. In Austria, the majority of these are small businesses with a maximum of 9 employees. Around 800 travel agencies are tour operators and providers of related travel services and are required to protect customer funds against insolvency under the Austrian Package Travel Regulations. Until 2020, customer funds were covered against these insolvency risks via insurance providers and bank guarantees.

As a result of potential insurers withdrawing from the market, for 2021 a guarantee package was put together for the sector to guard against market collapse in the event of temporary government-imposed restrictions. As Elisabeth Köstinger explains, "A specially-created guarantee facility was adopted for the sector totalling EUR 300 million. Regrettably, the market is still malfunctioning due to the pandemic. As a result, insolvency protection for travel agencies and other package tour operators will be extended by a year." Applications will open from 10 January in coordination with the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs. In line with this, travel service operating licences under the Trade Code will also be protected.

Guarantee facility for SMEs via the Austrian Hotel and Tourism Bank

The aim of the guarantee facility has always been to provide rapid and straightforward support using the liquidity-securing assistance measure of bridging finance. This measure comprises the assumption of guarantees by the Austrian Hotel and Tourism Bank for bridging finance provided by local banks. The guarantee facility for bridging finance is being extended until 30 June 2022.

In addition, the Directive for the Provision of Season-Opening Assistance to Secure Skilled Personnel has been put into law, and applications are set to open from 10 January 2022.