Corona emergency aid: The nerves in Berlin are blank

AIn the end he is said to have apologized for the harsh tone. But at first the sub-department head from Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) could not contain himself. The MPs acted as if they and the public had not been informed about changes in the corona aid regulations, the experienced official rumbled.

That something could still change was already stated in a joint press release by the Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) and the Federal Ministry of Economics (BMWi) at the end of November.

Once in a rage, he also pointed out to the members of the finance committee that at the specialist level in the ministries had been working tirelessly for weeks to find the best possible solution for companies – the weekends were wasted in a row. Following the first purely digital meeting of this body, several members of the Bundestag reported it.

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The amazement about the performance was great. The CDU MP Olav Gutting tweeted during the non-public meeting: “In #Finanzausschuss we are currently experiencing an incredible arrogance of the #BMF.” The minister announced generous aid in November and now the ministry is declaring that those in need should have known that the European aid rules limit that.

The appearance of the Scholz official shows how nervous the nerves are now on all levels after the many months of Corona. Not only with the affected entrepreneurs, many of whom are still waiting in vain for the promised aid from the state, but also with the officials who have to legally implement what their ministers decide at the highest government level.

“There was an error”

Most recently, a subsequent addition to the FAQs, the questions and answers on the BMWi website, caused frustration among potential recipients of help and their tax advisors.

Accordingly, the conditions for corona-related corporate aid have been changed as part of bridging aid II, which, unlike the November or December aid, is not about lost sales, but about the reimbursement of operational fixed costs. These ongoing expenses are now only reimbursed if the company can actually demonstrate a loss. The EU Commission insisted on this.

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“Technical problems”

This may be taken for granted, as SPD finance committee member Lothar Binding says. “Who would have guessed that the state would support companies that are still making a profit during the crisis?”

But he, too, finds it “really annoying”, as he says, that, contrary to what ministers Olaf Scholz and Peter Altmaier (CDU) have repeatedly promised, the money does not reach the company quickly and unbureaucratically. “It was a mistake to make it seem like everything was going very quickly,” says Binding.

A subsequent change in the small print, which means that “80 percent to 90 percent of all applications for bridging aid have to be tackled again”, as the President of the German Association of Tax Advisors WELT said, wants the words “Bazooka” and “Wumms” coined by Scholz “Doesn’t quite fit.

Fear of re-election

Altmaier’s Ministry of Economic Affairs clearly misjudged the programming of the payout platform for November aid. It wasn’t finished fast enough that the first regular payouts can only be made now.

Now, depending on the party book of the MP you ask, sometimes the SPD minister, sometimes the CDU minister, is the main culprit for the delays. Although these differences are becoming increasingly blurred. It can be observed that patience with both ministers is decreasing.

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“The Bundestag has made a lot of money available to the government, so we can simply expect that they will bring this money to the streets,” says Fritz Güntzler, who sits on the CDU’s finance committee. He is a tax advisor himself.

In the past few weeks, more and more clients – not infrequently CDU voters – have called him and vented their anger about the poor implementation of the aid. Obviously, there is growing concern among members of the governing parties that the disorder of aid will reduce their chances of re-election in the autumn.

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State support

Opposition politicians are now also having very fundamental thoughts. “The coalition must now provide clarity quickly, otherwise not only will confidence in the economic aid dwindle, but in the corona measures as a whole,” says financial politician Danyal Bayaz from the Greens.

When asked about the appearance of the sub-department head in front of the finance committee, Fabio De Masi from the Left Party shows understanding that everyone is under enormous pressure – also in the ministries. “But while we are sitting in warm office, companies are fighting for their existence,” he says. It is already becoming apparent that it will not be easier to keep your nerve.

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