Overview over current state support measures
To cushion the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, the Federal Government has introduced an aid package in the amount of EUR 38 billion which feeds various support programmes / aid funds. These aid programmes have been "designed" according to EU state aid rules, in particular Art. 107 TFEU, the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER), the de-minimis Regulation and the rules on state aid in the form of guarantees. However, the framework of state aid law has been relaxed in order to be able to make use of the full flexibility of state aid law during these economically difficult times. In order to allow for a swift approval of Member States' aid to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, the European Commission has also issued a “Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak ".
Below we have summarized the main support measures:
Corona Assistance Fund
The Corona Assistance Fund was created to ensure the economic survival of companies facing serious liquidity shortages due to the COVID-19 crisis. The total volume amounts to EUR 15 billion. These funds can be used flexibly for fixed cost subsidies or guarantees.
Fixed Cost Subsidies
In order to cover fixed costs, non-repayable subsidies may be granted. Fixed costs are e.g. office rents; insurance premiums; interest expenses; contractual payment obligations necessary for operations (subject to further conditions); licence fees; payments for electricity, gas and telecommunications; subject to certain conditions: loss of value of perishable / seasonal goods and an appropriate entrepreneurial salary of max. EUR 2,000 per month. The fixed cost subsidy amounts to 25%, 50% or 75% of the fixed costs - depending on the percentage loss of sales. Only fixed costs and loss of sales that occur between 15 March 2020 and the end of the COVID-19 measures are included. The subsidy is capped at EUR 90 million per company and is not taxable (but reduces the deductible expenses in the fiscal year concerned).
In order to be eligible for a fixed cost subsidy, a company must
- be located and be engaged in operational business in Austria. The fixed costs must be the result of operational business in Austria;
- suffer a loss of revenue of at least 40% in 2020 caused by COVID-19;
- take all reasonable measures to reduce fixed costs and to maintain jobs in Austria;
- have been economically sound before the COVID-19 crisis.
The following companies are not eligible for a fixed cost subsidy:
- Large companies, i.e. companies that had more than 250 employees as of 31 December 2019 and have dismissed employees instead of making use of the short-time work model. This makes the short-time work model even more attractive; for many companies, however, this knock-out criterion comes too late if they have laid off staff during the first critical phase (especially in a period before the short-time work model was revised).
- Companies from the financial and insurance sector (banks, credit institutions, insurance companies, investment firms and other finance companies subject to strict supervisory regulations).
An application for a fixed cost subsidy may be submitted from 15 April 2020 via the aws online tool. Payment is made via the commercial bank of the respective company in agreement with aws. Further information is available at https://www.aws.at/corona-hilfsfonds/?ref=topnews.
Working capital loans may be secured with a guarantee from the Republic of Austria amounting to 90% of the loan amount (federal guarantee). The loan is capped at a maximum of 3 months' turnover or a maximum of EUR 120 million, whereby the cap may only be increased in justified exceptional cases. The maximum term is 5 years (extendable by another 5 years).
The loan interest rate is capped at a maximum of 1%. To comply with state aid law, a guarantee fee between 0.25 and 2% (depending on the size of the enterprise and the term of the guarantee) must be charged.
In addition, the company must be located and engage in operational activities in Austria and liquidity must be required for the domestic location. There are special regulations for stock corporations (distribution of bonuses to management board members only in the amount of up to 50% of last year's bonuses; no dividend payments from this liquidity support from 16 March 2020 to 16 March 2021).
Applications are possible from 8 April 2020.
The Corona Assistance Fund is being handled by the newly established COVID-19 Federal Financing Agency (COVID-19 Finanzierungsagentur des Bundes GmbH, COFAG) together with aws, ÖHT and OeKB. The respective company’s commercial bank is the single point of contact. Further information is available at www.bmf.gv.at/public/top-themen/corona-hilfspaket-faq.html.
The Hardship Fund is currently endowed with a maximum of EUR 2 billion. Funding takes the form of a non-refundable grant of EUR 500 or EUR 1,000 respectively and shall partially compensate lost income from self-employment and from business operations of businesses that have been significantly affected by the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. A second phase of hardship funding has already been announced and is expected to launch after Easter 2020. Funds will be made available to single member entities (Ein-Personen-Unternehmen, EPU), freelance employees according to Sec 4 para 4 Austrian Social Security Act (Allgemeines Sozialversicherungsgesetz) and micro-enterprises as defined in Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC of 6 May 2003. Applicants must meet a number of criteria (e.g. founding date of the company on or before 31 December 2019; registered office or permanent establishment in Austria, etc) which are set out in the Guidelines of the Federal Minister of Finance. Applications can be submitted until end of 2020. Further information is available here.
Federal Ministry of Finance and Austrian Control Bank (Österreichische Kontrollbank, OeKB) offer funds in the amount of EUR 2 billion. Export companies can apply for a credit line of
- 10% (large companies) or
- 15% (small and medium-sized companies)
of their export sales with a federal guarantee ratio of 50% - 70% of these loans. The maximum limit per company group amounts to EUR 60 million. The loans are available to large, medium-sized and small companies with existing export activity and at least 25% value added in Austria which have been economically healthy until the COVID-19 outbreak. The maximum term is 2 years with an option for extension. The application must be submitted in collaboration with the commercial bank of the respective export company. Further information is available at: https://www.oekb.at/en/oekb-group/news-und-wissen/news/2020/covid-19-aid.html.
Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs and Austrian Research Promotion Agency (Österreichische Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft mbH, FFG): With the “Emergency Call for research into COVID-19”-programme, short term funding in the form of non-repayable grants in the amount of EUR 21 million (of a total funding package of EUR 23 million) will be made available in response to the Corona crisis. FFG will process the Emergency-Call in a fast-track procedure. The Emergency-Call is aimed at Austrian companies planning a research and development project with regard to the Corona-Virus focusing on
- virus biology and transmission
- infection prevention and control
- research and development of medicines and other treatments and development of new diagnostic methods
- planning and conduct of clinical trials.
Companies submitting clinical trials must have preliminary results or experience with using the substance to be tested on other coronaviruses (e.g. SARS, MERS) or must have products on the market which have already demonstrated to be effective against coronaviruses in general or against symptoms similar to those caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus (e.g. respiratory diseases). The planned projects should be designed for short-term implementation (development period max. 12 months). The deadline for the submission of projects is 8 April 2020 (for short-term decisions) and 11 May 2020 (for additional applications and funding decisions). Further information as well as relevant FFG-Guidelines are available at https://www.ffg.at/en/ausschreibung/emergencycall-covid-19.
Austria Wirtschaftsservice Gesellschaft mbH (aws, Austrian promotional bank): The programme "Bridge-Finance-Guarantees due to the Corona Virus Crisis" with a volume of up to EUR 10 million provides support for liquidity bottlenecks caused by loss of sales as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and is intended to provide interim financing of measures (e.g. short-term adjustment of supply chains and customer relations). Funding will be provided for working capital financing (e.g. purchases of goods, personnel costs) to financially sound small-scale and industrial SMEs (companies in the tourism and leisure industry are excluded). The guarantee can be used to secure up to 80% of a bridging loan of up to EUR 2.5 million per SME. The term of the bridging loan is max. 5 years. The programme is being implemented on the basis of the aws Directive for SMEs, with a focus on the "Bridge-Finance-Guarantees due to the Corona Virus Crisis". Applications may be submitted via aws “Fördermanager”-online tool together with the commercial bank of the respective company. Further information is available at https://www.aws.at/en/aws-guarantee/bridge-finance-guarantees-due-to-the-corona-virus-crisis/.
Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism and Österreichische Hotel- und Tourismusbank (ÖHT): SMEs in the tourism and leisure industry, which are expecting a 15% decline in sales compared to the same period of the previous year due to the coronavirus crisis, are to be given quick and unbureaucratic access to reduced-interest loans. Guarantees will be made available to tourism businesses so that they can take up bridging loans from their banks. The costs usually incurred for such guarantees (one-off processing fee of 1% and guarantee commission of 0.8%) are fully covered by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism. The bridging loan can amount to a maximum of EUR 500,000 (secured with a federal guarantee ratio of 80%). The volume of liability made available by the Federal Government for this special campaign amounts to EUR 100 million. Since Wednesday 11 March 2020, 3 p.m., affected tourism businesses can submit applications at www.oeht.at.
Support Measures from the Federal States
Several federal states (Bundesländer) have already announced additional funds for the companies in the region.
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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