The numerous measures listed below, which the Austrian Federal Government as well as individual federal provinces intend to take to support companies, partly stem from project reports and/or press releases only and have therefore from a legal perspective not yet been fully implemented. It is therefore advisable to monitor new implementation measures on a daily basis.
The COVID 19 crisis management fund established by the Federal Ministry of Finance is the largest measure taken to date. The fund will be endowed with up to EUR 4 billion and is intended to finance, among other things, measures to cushion the loss of revenue as a result of the crisis, measures in connection with the Epidemic Act and measures to stimulate the economy. In view of the serious economic consequences that are feared, the Austrian Federal Government has announced that it will increase the aid measures by means of a EUR 38 billion aid package for the economy. In addition to the EUR 4 billion in emergency aid already decided, EUR 9 billion will be used for loan guarantees and warranties, EUR 15 billion for emergency aid for sectors that have been particularly hard hit by the crisis and EUR 10 billion for tax deferrals.
EUR 400 million of the COVID 19 crisis management fund, which has already been adopted, is dedicated for Corona short-time work. This is intended to prevent dismissals for operational reasons or unpaid leave and to reduce the financial burden on the employer by covering part of the costs of employing the employee. The employer must justify the economic necessity of short-time work. The affected employees’ working hours can be reduced by 10% to 90%, and in some cases reduced completely to 0 hours, for a maximum of three months and, in the case of a continuing crisis, for another three months.
As a further support for the employer, whose company may no longer be entered or may only be entered with restrictions due to measures based on the COVID-1 9 Measures Act, the employer can unilaterally instruct the employee to consume holiday and time credits.
To provide further support to employers, Austria allows special care time under Section 18b of Labour Contract Law Amendment Act (AVRAG). In the event of the official closure of educational institutions and childcare facilities, employers may grant employees who are not working in a supply-critical area (including in particular food production and trade, pharmacies, health care, public safety) a special care period of up to three weeks for the care of children up to the age of 14 for whom care is mandatory, provided that there is no entitlement to other time off work. This also applies in connection with the care of people with disabilities, whose institution of assistance for the disabled or educational institution for people with disabilities has been partially or completely closed due to official measures. One third of the remuneration paid during this period can be claimed by the employer.
To support the tourism industry, which was hit hard by the coronavirus crisis early on, or to ensure the liquidity of individual companies, applications can be made to the Tourism Bank (ÖHT) for the provision of bridging finance. A similar measure is possible for companies active in other sectors, especially SMEs, through the Austria Wirtschaftsservice (aws). Here, up to 80% of loans from EUR 5,000 to EUR 2,500,000 can be secured.
Depending on their size, export companies can apply to OeKB for 10% or 15% of their export turnover, but limited to EUR 60 million per company and EUR 2 billion in total, as a credit line, if the company was economically well positioned before the crisis. The federal government assumes liabilities of 50% to 70% of these loans.
In addition to loan guarantees, the federal government also plans to grant direct loans to affected companies.
There is also the possibility of reducing the burden of social security contributions. For example, self-employed persons can apply to the Social Insurance Institution of the Self-Employed (SVS) for deferral or payment in instalments of contributions, reduction of the provisional contribution base and/or leniency of interest on arrears. The ÖGK also supports companies and enables, for example, deferrals, instalment payments and leniency in the case of late payment surcharges. In addition, it refrains from debt collection measures or the filing of insolvency applications.
The Austrian federal government plans to set up a hardship fund with an endowment of up to EUR 1 billion to support EPUs, SMEs, micro enterprises, independent professionals and NPOs in cases of particular hardship. According to the current state of affairs, this fund is intended to support entrepreneurs affected by direct cash payments. The amounts received in this way are final grants and do not have to be repaid at a later date.
Artists will be supported by increasing the artists’ social security fund by an additional EUR 5 million and will receive aid in the event of COVID-19-related loss of income.
In addition, fee reductions have also been introduced. For example, writings and official acts that are carried out directly or indirectly as a result of the necessary measures in connection with the handling of the COVID-19 crisis situation are exempt from fees (stamp duties) and federal administrative charges.
There are also various regional support measures at the state or municipal level. For example, companies benefit from the temporary abolition of short-term parking zones in cities such as Vienna, Graz, Linz or Innsbruck. In Vienna, the City of Vienna and the Vienna Chamber of Commerce support regional companies in particular with EUR 12 million for guarantees, the establishment of a EUR 20 million emergency fund for EPUs and micro-enterprises and the EUR 3 million increase in funding for employment foundations of the Vienna Employee Promotion Fund.
Disclaimer: Although this legal summary has been prepared with the utmost care, we do not assume any liability for the content being correct, complete and up-to-date. Our summary cannot replace legal advice in individual cases. We are at your disposal for specific legal advice.