07.04.2020

Questions and answers on coronavirus immediate relief packages for Berlin and Brandenburg entrepreneurs

On Wednesday, 25 March 2020, the German Bundestag passed the supplementary budget while easing the debt brake. The Economic Stabilisation Fund now has EUR 600,000 million available for large companies; the immediate relief package for micro enterprises and self-employed persons without employees provides for EUR 50,000 million in grants alone. Since Wednesday, 25 March 2020, 9 a.m., applications for public grants can also be submitted to the business promotion bank of the federal state of Brandenburg, ILB. Berlin intends to open its Immediate Relief Package II (Soforthilfe-Paket II) for applications next Friday, 27 March 2020. The Immediate Relief Package I (Soforthilfe-Paket I) programme has already started. We provide an overview of financial support opportunities, applications and conditions that can provide short-term liquidity to Berlin and Brandenburg entrepreneurs.

Background

The type and amount of immediate relief measures available (grant, one-off payment or loan) depends on the size of the enterprise to start with. While for small business owners (Kleinunternehmer), self-employed persons without employees (Soloselbständige) and freelancers (Freiberufler) the aim is rather to provide them with fresh money in the short term through one-off payments, bridging loans and other loans serve to cover liquidity needs of large companies for the medium term. Small and medium-sized enterprises basically have both options. In the context of both the bridging loans and the grants, it also depends on whether the company has been established on the market already for several years or whether it has just been founded.

WHO?

  • Small business owners, self-employed persons without employees - A uniform definition for small business owners or self-employed persons without employees is not provided by the adopted packages. In principle, every tradesperson is covered. The support programmes determine the amount of funding based on the number of employees, among other things. To give you some orientation: in the federal state of Brandenburg, a company with 5 to 100 employees is a small business eligible for funding. This always includes the freelance professions. According to the definition of Section 18 of the German Income Trade Act (Einkommensteuergesetz, EStG), freelance professions are, to name just a few, independent artists, writers, scientists or independent physicians, engineers, architects, physiotherapists, and interpreters.
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) - In a recommendation, the European Commission defines SME as enterprises which employ less than 250 persons and which either have an annual turnover of up to EUR 50 million or a balance sheet total of no more than EUR 43 million. Some of the support programmes make explicit reference to this definition.
  • “Large enterprises" - These are enterprises which are no SME, i.e. which have more employees or generate higher turnover or disclose a higher balance sheet total than the one defined for SME by the European Commission in its recommendation.
  • What about start-up companies? The duration of previous participation in the market may be an eligibility criterion for receiving support: The business promotion bank of the federal state of Berlin, Investitionsbank Berlin, for example, does not provide bridging loans to companies formed less than 3 years ago. KfW differentiates according to whether companies have been established on the market for less than 3 years, less than 5 years or longer than 5 years. For start-up companies, however, there may be separate support programmes available, which cannot be dealt with here.

One-off payments/grants:

1. Grants in Berlin (Immediate Relief Package II)

  • What: One-off payments in the amount of EUR 5,000
  • Who: Micro enterprises with up to 5 employees and self-employed persons without employees, which have a place of business or operating site in [HD1] Berlin. Whether start-ups and freelance professions should also benefit from this, is still unclear. It is unlikely that companies with an existing obligation to file for insolvency will be eligible for support (for more information on the obligation to file for insolvency in times of the coronavirus, click here).
  • When: It should be possible to retrieve the application forms online starting from Friday, 27 March 2020 at noon.
  • Where: An application can be filed digitally on the website of Investitionsbank Berlin(https://www.ibb.de/de/wirtschaftsfoerderung/themen/coronahilfe/corona-liquiditaets-engpaesse.html). Applications sent by e-mail will not be accepted.
  • Further application requirements: still unclear, we expect more details on eligibility criteria on Friday, 27 March 2020.

2. Grants in Brandenburg (Soforthilfe Brandenburg)

  • What: One-off payment staggered up to an amount of EUR 60,000
  • Who: Companies with 5 to 100 employees and freelancers (definition according to Section 18 (1) EStG), which have an operating site or place of business in Brandenburg. ILB makes payments (incl. to start-up companies):[HD2] 
    • for up to 5 employed persons up to EUR 9,000;
    • for up to 15 employed persons up to EUR 15,000;
    • for up to 50 employed persons up to EUR 30,000.00;
    • for up to 100 employed persons up to EUR 60,000.00.
  • When: from Wednesday, 25 March 2020, 9 a.m
  • Where: The application must be submitted to the Investitionsbank Brandenburg. It is to be sent by e-mail to soforthilfe-corona@ilb.de after it has been downloaded fromhttps://www.ilb.de/de/wirtschaft/zuschuesse/soforthilfe-corona-brandenburg/Heruntergeladen, filled in and signed and then scanned in again. The funding guidelines and further information can also be found there
  • Further application requirements:
    • extract from the commercial register or comparable documents;
    • Registration as a trade (Gewerbeanmeldung);
    • copy of the identity card;
    • payroll journal or equivalent documents for employees/workers;
    • Completed form 'Erklärungen über bereits erhaltene bzw. beantragte "De-minimis"-Beihilfen’ (Statements regarding de minimis aid already received or applied for)

 

3. Grants from the Federal Government (Soforthilfe Bund)

  • What: One-off payments of up to EUR 15,000, which can generally be drawn down over 3 months. If the landlord reduces the rent by 20%, the grant unused for that reason can be extended to two more months.
  • Who: Micro-enterprises, self-employed persons without employees, members of the freelance professions (definition according to Section 18 (1) EStG). This also includes start-up companies and SME:
    • with up to 5 employed persons (or full-time equivalents): Grant of up to EUR 9,000;
    • with up to 10 employed persons (or full-time equivalents): Grant of up to EUR 15,000.
  • When: unclear; implementation will take place in consultation with the regions and local authorities, details are not yet known.
  • Where: Application procedures are to be organised via the regions and municipalities. Details are not yet known.
  • Further application requirements:
    • Affidavit that the existence of the business is threatened as a consequence of corona (= loss of income must not have occurred before 11 March 2020)[HD3] 
    • Other requirements are not yet known.

4. Further questions

  • May the programmes be combined?
    • A combination of Brandenburg and Berlin funds can only be considered if there are operating sites in both federal states. So far, the federal states have not commented on an accumulation of funds.
    • The Federal Government expressly does not exclude a combination of regional and national funds.
  • Do the grants have to be repaid?
    • Grants are not loans. They therefore do not have to be repaid in principle.
    • However, the Federal Government expressly stipulates that the grants must be used up over three months (exceptionally over 5 months). If the grant has not been exhausted (overcompensation), it must be repaid. The same should apply to grants of the federal states.
    • It is not yet clear what evidence will later be required from the beneficiaries. Applicants are, however, strongly advised to document the use of funds in detail.

Bridging loans

1. Soforthilfe-Paket I (Berlin)

  • What: Interest-free loan with a term of 2 years in the amount of up to EUR 500,000 (in justified exceptional cases up to EUR 2.5 million)
  • Purpose: Loans are granted to bridge future liabilities (supplies, personnel, rent). Not eligible for funding: Investments, servicing other loans, capacity expansion.
  • Who: SME with an operating site in Berlin, which have been established on the market for more than 3 years. Explicitly not covered are start-ups not formed more than 3 years ago, companies with a pre-existing obligation to file for insolvency (more information on the obligation to file for insolvency in times of the corona crisis can be found here).
  • Where: A digital application can be submitted to  Investitionsbank Berlin.
    Follow this link to register: https://registrierung-eantrag.ibb.de/_layouts/15/eIBB/newregistrationform.aspx#edit 
  • When: As of now (due to server overload, we recommend that you apply at off-peak hours).
  • Further application requirements:
    • absolute guarantee of the beneficial owner/legal representative in the amount of the loan;
    • liquidity planning for 12 months;
    • annual financial statements of the last two financial years and current business assessment (BWA) including lists of totals and balances or cash flow accounts;
    • current excerpt from the commercial register;
    • registration as a trade, if applicable;
    • part of the application documents: Information leaflet / declaration "Politically exposed person" (PEP) of the applicant and the beneficial owners; SME self-declaration and specimen signature sheet, all available for download in German on the IBB customer portal under "Weitere Formulare". The customer portal is currently overloaded.

2. Konsolidierungs- und Standortsicherungsprogramm (KoSta Brandenburg)

  • What: An older support programme (since 2007), which is currently also open to previously excluded sectors, e.g. from the hospitality and construction industries and many others, in order to mitigate the consequences of the corona pandemic, and which was increased by the Federal State of Brandenburg by a further EUR 500 million. Eligible companies whose existence is already severely threatened.
    • Restructuring loans with a maximum term of 5 years
    • Rescue aid loan (Rettungsbeihilfe-Darlehen) with a maximum term of 6 months
    • Insolvency loan with a maximum term of 18 months
    • Interest: Reference interest rate of the European Commission plus risk premium (at least 400 basis points, depending on collateralisation)
  • Purpose: Granting of loan to maintain the business operations of the companies for the financing of a share of liquidity requirements
    • Restructuring loan: co-financing of the liquidity needs under an existing restructuring plan
    • Rescue aid loan (Rettungsbeihilfe-Darlehen): gives companies time to assess the circumstances of their difficulties and draw up a restructuring plan
    • Insolvency loan: if an out-of-court restructuring is not possible, funds are made available to insolvency administrators in the insolvency proceedings for the purpose of restructuring
  • Who: SME, smaller state-owned commercial enterprises in the Federal State of Brandenburg that were formed more than three years ago and are temporarily in economic difficulties; no start-up companies formed less than three years ago
  • Where: Application based on a form (here: https://www.ilb.de/media/dokumente/dokumente-fuer-programme/dokumente-mit-programmzuordnung/wirtschaft/01-darlehen/konsolidierung-und-standortsicherung/formulare/konsolidierung-und-standortsicherung_antrag.pdf) first to be submitted to the relationship bank, which will then submit its comments to the ILB; the ILB will then present a list of further application documents to be submitted
  • When: since 2007, current funding directive until 31 December 2020
  • Further application requirements:
    • Development opportunities and economic prospects of companies must be positive
    • Collateral:Guarantees of the shareholders/partners or owners as well as, if possible, valuable real collateral

Other loans

1. KfW Sonderprogramm 2020

  • What: Risk assumption by the KfW in the case the credit is granted by the relationship bank in order to increase the company's chances of obtaining a loan commitment from its relationship bank.
  • Purpose: Less tied to a specific purpose than in the case of bridge financing. Investments and financing are permitted.
  • Who: SME and large enterprises
  • When: As of now
  • Where: The granting of a loan must be applied with the relationship bank
  • Other requirements:
    • No liquidity problems before 31 December 2019
    • Relationship banks decide on the granting of the loan

2. ERP Gründerkredit – Startgeld

  • What: Risk assumption by KfW in the case the credit is granted by the relationship bank in order to increase the company's chances of obtaining a loan commitment.
  • Who: Start-up companies
  • Purpose: for investments and working capital (running cost)
  • When: As of now
  • Where: The granting of a loan must be applied with the relationship bank.
  • Other requirements:
    • No liquidity problems before 31 December 2019
    • Relationship banks decide on the granting of the loan

Other measures to provide liquidity

1. Tax measures: In order to avoid undue hardship as a result of the coronavirus crisis, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the highest tax authorities of the federal states have decided on the following measures:

  • What:
    • Deferral of tax payments: Those affected by liquidity bottlenecks can apply for a deferral to the competent tax office, stating their situation. The applications will be processed in a simplified procedure taking into account the applicant's distress.
    • Adjustment of the advance payments for income, corporation and trade tax: In line with the deferrals, the adjustment of the advance payments for income, corporation and trade tax can be also be applied for. The simplified procedure also applies here.
    • Adjustment of enforcement procedures: Announcements exist according to which until the end of the year tax offices will waive enforcement measures and late payment surcharges if the delay is related to the corona pandemic.
    • Deadline extensions: Extensions of time limits are granted generously overall.
    • Tax refunds Brandenburg: Reimbursement of the special advance payments on value added tax for the year 2020 can be applied for.
    • Tax refunds Berlin: Tax refunds in Berlin tend to be paid out with a delay. In Berlin, this is justified with the shortage of personnel.
    • The Federal Government expects around EUR 33,500 million less tax revenue.
  • When: from now until 31 December 2020
  • Where:

2. Short-time working: The requirements for short-time working have been relaxed.

  • What: It is now possible to apply for short-time working even if only 10% of the employees in a company are affected by loss of working hours. This now also applies to temporary workers. Social security contributions are covered in full.
  • Who: Companies that employ at least one employee can benefit from short-time working. The following are therefore not covered: sole proprietors ("self-employed persons without employees")
  • When: immediately
  • Where: The loss of working hours must be reported to the Federal Employment Agency. The form for notification of loss of working hours can be found here: https://www.arbeitsagentur.de/datei/anzeige-kug101_ba013134.pdf
  • Other requirements:
    • The agreement in the employment contract, collective bargaining agreement or with the works council must be observed.
    • An overview of further requirements (also independent of the corona crisis) is provided here: https://www.arbeitsagentur.de/news/corona-virus-informationen-fuer-unternehmen-zum-kurzarbeitergeld.
    • You should seek advice on the procedure for short-time working. Our employment law teams have many years of relevant practical experience in order to accompany and help shape such processes.

Conclusion

  • In view of the urgency for the companies concerned, the Federal Government as well as the federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg have each put together a substantial liquidity assistance package. It is to be hoped that implementation in practice will be handled in a similarly pragmatic manner and with the necessary speed. When applying for funding, it is important to position oneself as broadly as possible and to check all the pillars of the protective shields for individual suitability, to submit applications in good time but with due care and to seamlessly document the processing of the support measure.
  • Our teams of experts from the corporate and employment law practice are familiar with the processes and, thanks to their many years of experience, can ensure targeted advice even under the special circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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