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Coronavirus: Help, information and contact details for businesses and workers in Bremen

Links, contact details and information on the help available from the state of Bremen and the federal government for companies that are in financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
If you are a business owner or freelancer looking for information about support for businesses, you will find advice here on all the support available, and how to access it.

Please note: These pages give you a rough overview of possible programs, help and contacts. Since the situation is constantly changing, we ask you to contact the specific addresses given to you below.

Temporary support for small and medium-sized enterprises
"Temporary support" is the name of the newly issued Corona emergency aid measure of the Federal Government. It succeeds the previous emergency aid programmes of the federal and state governments.

The new programme has a volume of 25 billion euros. It is aimed at the self-employed, small businesses, small and medium-sized enterprises and - this is new - also at non-profit enterprises and organizations.

Applications can be made for funds - graduated according to the amount of lost revenue and number of employees - of up to 200,000 euros for the months September to December 2020.

All information on the new programme can be found on this page: https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-en/issues/ueberbrueckungshilfe-1760136

The funds can be applied for via your tax consultant, auditor or accountant.

For further information, the BAB - Die Förderbank, which is responsible for processing applications, is also available in Bremen: https://www.bab-bremen.de/bab/corona-ueberbrueckungshilfen-des-bundes.html
First steps for companies in crisis
The first thing to do is to put together a summary of your running costs, outstanding liabilities and any receivables. Your aim must be to reduce your outgoings and protect liquidity.

Work through this checklist:
1. Assess your own liquidity and financial position (How much cash do you have in your bank account? What does your cash flow look like? What reserves do you have and how long will they last?)
2. Talk to your suppliers and see if you can arrange payment in instalments
3. Talk to your customers and, if possible, agree advance payments and payment in instalments
4. Talk to your landlord to see if they will agree to reduced or deferred payments
5. Talk to your bank (new borrowing backed by KfW, BAB or the Bremen guarantee bank, increased borrowing limit or repayment deferral)
6. Ask the tax office and social insurance provider about deferred payments (see below)
7. Ask the tax office whether advance tax payments may be adjusted; make an application
8. Review planned capital expenditure and consider postponing
9. Consider short-time working as an alternative
Important hotlines and e-mail adresses for companies
  • Tax relief/tax issues: Bremen tax office (Finanzamt Bremen) corona@fa-hb.bremen.de Bremerhaven tax office (Finanzamt Bremerhaven) corona@finanzamtbremerhaven.bremen.de
  • Short-time working support: Bremen employment agency (Agentur für Arbeit Bremen)  Bremen-Bremerhaven@arbeitsagentur.de
  • General business questions, foreign trade, training: Bremen chamber of commerce (Handelskammer Bremen) +49 (0)421 3637 241
    The contact persons for various queries on related issues are to be found on the homepage of the chamber of commerce
  • Skilled trades: Bremen chamber of skilled trades (Handwerkskammer Bremen)
  • Health issues: Federal Ministry of Health +49 (0)30 3464 65100
  • Questions for the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy +49 (0)30 18615 1515
  • Childcare questions: Senator for Children and Education+49 (0)421 361 10100
  • Special dispensations for the export of protective equipment +49 (0)6196 908 1444
  • Employee questions: Bremen chamber of employees (Arbeitnehmerkammer) recht@arbeitnehmerkammer.de and bhv@arbeitnehmerkammer.de (Bremerhaven)
    Relevant information is also provided by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
Tax relief for businesses
The tax office of the Bremen state government has put tax measures in place to help ease the burden on businesses. They include
  • Reducing or suspending prepayments of income tax or corporation tax (application required)
  • Interest-free deferral of tax payments when they fall due
  • Waiving late payment penalties
  • Not taking enforcement action on debts

If you have any queries regarding the above points, please contact your tax office on the following numbers:
  • Bremen tax office: Tel. +49 (0)421 361 90909 and +49 (0)421 361 95096
  • Bremerhaven tax office: Tel. +49 (0)471 596 99000

The tax offices can also be  contacted at these dedicated email addresses:

The following form can be used for applications to reduce or defer tax prepayments: http://www.bayreuth.ihk.de/blueprint/servlet/resource/blob/4735300/455be56d8a66f4196e07266b654d7b95/vordruck-steuererleichterungen-aufgrund-coronavirus-data.pdf

Deferral of social security contributions
The "GKV-Spitzenverband der Krankenkassen" has recommended all statutory health insurance funds to temporarily facilitate the deferral of social security contributions. Deferral of contributions under the facilitated conditions should in principle be possible once all other measures from the various aid packages and support measures of the Federal Government have been exhausted.

A application should be submitted informally directly to your respective health insurance fund with reference to the emergency situation caused by the Corona crisis and Section 76 of the German Social Code, Book IV (§ 76 SGB IV). For all questions and applications, please contact your respective social insurance agency.
Apply for short-term-working support
Short-time working is when a business does not have enough work for some or all of its workers and it has to temporarily reduce their hours or lay them off completely. To avoid redundancy, it can apply for short-time-working support. This is similar to unemployment benefit, but is paid by the company which then claims it back from the Federal Employment Agency. This helps to bridge the gap until orders pick up again.

Effect of short-time-working support
Workers keep their jobs and employers reduce their wage bill. Companies hold onto their experienced staff even when business is slack.

Conditions for receiving short-time-working support
There are a few conditions that have to be met. Companies can apply for short-time working if, as a result of economic circumstances beyond their control such as supply shortages for parts required in production or other unavoidable events such as floods or coronavirus:
  • they temporarily suffer financial difficulties, they consequently do not have enough work for all their employees,
  • and at least 10 per cent of the company’s employees are losing at least 10 per cent of their salary.

Changes arising from the emergency law passed by the federal government
The new provisions will enable more companies to use short-time working. Previously, at least one third of the employees in the company had to be affected by a loss of work and wages. Now, the support will be available if 10 per cent of employees are affected. In addition, the Federal Employment Agency will also reimburse social insurance contributions in full. Employees remain registered for social insurance even when on short-time working. In the past, the employer had to cover these costs in full itself. Another change is that contract staff will now also be eligible for short-time-working support.

Conditions for short-time-working support are ‘financial circumstances’ and ‘unavoidable events’. What does that mean?
The law specifies that companies can only claim short-time-working support in an emergency, not to cover normal operating risks. Financial circumstances refer to influences that are beyond the control of the business. In the context of the coronavirus crisis, financial circumstances may apply for example if supplies of parts cease, no alternatives are available and production lines come to a standstill. Then there are the ‘unavoidable events’. These include floods, for example, and also orders issued by health authorities.

Applying for short-time-working support
Companies need to contact the Federal Employment Agency and explain their circumstances. If the conditions for short-time-working support are met, the company notifies the agency in writing. Businesses within the hotel, hospitality, restaurant and events industries can also apply for short-time working support. Both the notification of short-time working and the submission of the application can be done online if the employer is registered with the Federal Employment Agency: www.arbeitsagentur.de/kurzarbeit

If you wish to apply for short-time-working support, you need the following forms. These can be downloaded using the links below (german):

Documents you will need to submit in support of your application
The company must submit various documents to the Federal Employment Agency in order to establish that it is eligible for short-term-working support. These include the agreement on the introduction of short-time working with the works council or the employees. Employers should also submit the notices of termination pending a change of contract (Änderungskündigung), where applicable.

Duration of the short-time-working support
Short-time-working support is available for up to twelve months, but depends on the individual case.

Amount of short-term-working support
Short-time working-support is equivalent to 60 per cent of the employee’s usual net pay. If employees have entered at least 0.5 children on their wage-tax card, the rate is 67 per cent.

Is the support provided by the Federal Employment Agency enough to weather a severe economic crisis?
The Federal Employment Agency is well prepared for a possible severe crisis. It has reserves of €26 billion to fall back on if required. Information from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs

Advice and additional information for employers
The present demand for information about short-time working is immense. For a simple and straightforward way of accessing direct information about the current process, click on the link below. This will take you to a webinar that was held on 20 March 2020 in partnership with the Lower Saxony Metal Industry employers’ association and the Federal Employment Agency.
International trade and export matters
International trade documents
The Bremen chamber of commerce will remain available to issue and accept international trade documents. In the event of closures, reciprocal support arrangements have been made with neighbouring chambers.

Hotline for international trade queries:
  • The chamber of commerce has set up a hotline for companies that have questions about the effects of coronavirus on international supply chains or transport. Hotline: +49 (0)421 3637 241.
  • The chamber of commerce keeps its members informed about the situation in the key export markets and the priorities being set in Brussels, and also provides strategic advice.
The federal government provides businesses with export credit guarantees (‘Hermes cover’), a flexible, effective and comprehensive form of support. These are backed by a well-resourced KfW scheme to fund export business. If there is additional need for export cover and funding, the authorisation limits can be swiftly raised.

Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), the German economic development agency, has also put together a special information package on coronavirus and international trade: https://www.gtai.de/gtai-de/trade/specials/special/coronavirus-218400
Information for freelancers and the self-employed
Freelancers and the self-employed will be particularly hard hit by the loss of orders. They can apply to the tax office (as described above) for any of the following: a reduction or suspension of tax prepayments, a deferral of tax payments when they fall due, a waiver of late payment penalties, reimbursement of any social insurance contributions or the waiver of enforcement action on debts. Self-employed workers should contact the relevant offices as soon as possible if they wish to claim any of these.

Payments for self-employed people in quarantine
If self-employed people have to go into quarantine, they can claim for loss of earnings under the law on the prevention and combating of infectious diseases. The payment is based on the profit reported in the tax assessment notice for the previous year.

The following bodies are responsible for applications for financial support: Further information for the self-employed is available here: https://www.gruenderlexikon.de/news/kurz-notiert/corona-hilfen-fuer-selbststaendige-freiberufler-und-kleinunternehmer-84233709