Both the United States and Germany have been busy, passing aid packages to help support people and businesses during COVID–19 pandemic. I won't get into the nitty gritty details of everything in there, since I'll likely miss key things, but there's lots of news reports about it out there. There are a couple of financial support measures in this legislation that I have been following:
US Economic Impact Payments
These are the much-anticipated "checks" (hopefully electronic bank transfers for as many people as possible). Apparently Americans abroad, as long as we meet the income criteria, will also be eligible to get these $1200 payments. Democrats Abroad has posted an update on the website, and also linked to a FAQ (it's a Google Doc). Lucky for us, the IRS has also posted some useful information, like that they're going to create a web portal where people can provide their direct deposit information, to avoid the aforementioned paper checks.
Berlin & Germany's Emergency Aid
Germany's also moved surprisingly quickly to get help out there to people who need it. For those who are employed, Kurzarbeit (often translated as short-time work, which I think is silly) is a program to replace lost wages for people who are furloughed. In my lay understanding, if your hours are reduced or cut completely, the government will pay up to 60% of those lost wages. Companies have to apply for it, it's not something individual workers apply for. The idea is that companies shouldn't let people go, but reduce their hours or keep them officially employed so that when the economy recovers, they can get back to work quickly.
For freelancers, another part of the emergency aid package applies. It's a combination of Berlin state and German federal funds. There are big loans and support available for larger companies, but also for individual self-employed people and small or micro business. For freelancers, you can get 5000 Euros as a grant from Berlin funds, and up to 9000 Euros from German federal aid (but that can only be spent on certain types of expenses). They've even put a page up in English called "Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Information and support for the Berlin economy." It looks pretty complicated, but the actual application process was managed by the government investment bank IBB.
They started taking applications online on Friday March 27, 2020 at 1pm, and as you can imagine, the site was overrun! There was this virtual line system they set up, so each person who tried to reach the site got a number, and then had to wait until it was their turn. You could ask the site to email you when it was your turn, but if you missed your window (which I heard some people did), you'd have to go back to the beginning. The application itself seemed to be fairly straight forward. Lots of boxes to check that you're telling the truth, but basically you just need your German tax ID number, your name, address, be based in Berlin, and an ID.
Coronavirus-Krise in Berlin: Mehr als 100.000 Nutzer in der Warteschlange für Soforthilfen https://t.co/RI87DsnrXC #coronaberlin #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/odGJQBtTb0— Tagesspiegel (@Tagesspiegel) March 27, 2020
People complained on Twitter and elsewhere about having to wait in this online queue, but in the end it seems to have worked fairly well. I've heard from friends and seen reports of the money arriving at the beginning of this week, so just days after people submitted their applications. Bravo, Berlin!
Freelancers and small entrepreneurs check your bank accounts, your balance might be up by a couple thousand euros! The IBB says the have transferred €500 million of Soforthilfe today. For more of the latest, read our daily update! #Corona #Berlinhttps://t.co/LbcFgKVkoC— Exberliner Magazine (@exberlinermag) March 30, 2020