Highlights of the planned COVID-19 legislative packages No. 6 - 17
12 new COVID-19 legislative packages have recently been introduced in the Austrian Parliament. They shall be passed in the plenary session on 28 April 2020. In the following, we briefly summarize the most relevant aspects of the reform (the masculine form is used for better readability):
COVID-19 Federal subsidies are to be controlled retrospectively
The Federal Act on the Examination of Federal Subsidies due to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Bundesgesetz über die Prüfung von Förderungen des Bundes aufgrund der COVID-19 Pandemie - CFPG) is intended to introduce ex-post control of specific government subsidies aimed at mitigating the negative effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
It is planned that the responsible tax authority will, for example, review federal subsidies received under the COVID-19 regime within the framework of a tax audit. In this respect, the tax authority would act as an expert and not as a federal tax authority. The following subsidies would be controlled:
- subsidies awarded to a company on the basis of section 2 para 2 no.7 ABBAG Act;
- subsidies under the hardship fund and
- short-time work subsidies.
This ex-post control mechanism is aimed at checking whether the information in the application was correct and whether other circumstances (conditions for the subsidies) have been complied with. Otherwise, the funding agency could subsequently non-compliance with civil or criminal law instruments.
Adaptation of the provisions on oral proceedings before courts
The Federal Act on accompanying measures to COVID-19 in the judiciary (Bundesgesetz betreffend Begleitmaßnahmen zu COVID-19 in der Justiz) will be amended so that oral hearings before civil courts can now be held without physical presence of the parties – using suitable technical means of communication – until 31 December 2020 at the latest. With the new legislation, there will no longer be any need for urgency of the matter, although the consent of the parties should generally be required for pursuing oral hearings with technical means of communication only.
In addition, some formalities for oral proceedings by means of video technology (e.g. handling of cost notes, signing of minutes of proceedings, formalities when concluding a settlement) will be regulated.
Adaptation of administrative procedural rules
Also the public administrative procedures will have to pursue in times of crisis. The amendment of the Administrative Law Accompanying Act to COVID-19 (Verwaltungsrechtliches COVID-19-Begleitgesetz) is intended to ensure that the authorities can continue to work. It should therefore be possible to conduct oral proceedings, interrogations and the like using suitable video technology.
In addition, new provisions of conduct for the performance of official acts are intended to provide additional protection against COVID-19.
Improvements to COVID-19 risk groups
The 3. COVID-19 Act introduced a right to work leave with continued payment of remuneration for employees with an enhanced individual risk. This right does not appliy, however, to work in home offices or if suitable protective measures at the workplace rule out COVID-19 infection with the greatest possible certainty.
The planned amendment should create more legal certainty in the definition of the COVID-19 risk group. In addition, employees in critical infrastructures should also no longer be treated differently.
Innovations in the Epidemics Act 1950
In light of the planned relaxation of restrictive measures it must be assured that this does not cause a second wave of infection. As a matter of precaution, the authorities should be able to recruit further groups of people to provide additional support. For example, employees of the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety could be appointed as experts for the clarification of outbreak clusters.
The bill also aims to regulate the implementation of screening programs in the context of the fight against COVID-19. The purpose of these programs should be to make a better assessment of the development of the pandemic and, under certain circumstances, to impose restrictions depending on the region.
Subsidies now also for artists and cultural workers
By amending the Federal Act on the Establishment of a Hardship Fund (Bundesgesetz über die Errichtung eines Härtefallfonds) the group of beneficiaries of subsidies from the Hardship Fund will be expanded. Accordingly, persons whose total income exceeds the monthly threshold for marginal employment should also be eligible for funding. Above all, artists and cultural workers should be able to benefit from this reform.
Please note: This newsletter merely provides general information and does not constitute legal advice of any kind from Binder Grösswang Rechtsanwälte GmbH. The newsletter cannot replace individual legal consultation. Binder Grösswang Rechtsanwälte GmbH assumes no liability whatsoever for the content and correctness of the newsletter.
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