Minister Altmaier and the economy want to develop an opening strategy

Even before the economic summit, the trade association (HDE) called for a transparent and fair plan to reopen all shops.

Even before the economic summit, the trade association (HDE) called for a transparent and fair plan to reopen all shops.

picture alliance, Jochen Tack

The anger and frustration about sluggish financial aid and ongoing corona restrictions in the economy are growing. That is why Federal Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) discussed the problems with more than 40 representatives from numerous industries on Tuesday.

The current crisis situation, the latest resolutions by the federal and state governments, the aid programs and possible opening perspectives, for example for retail and hospitality, were discussed. Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) announced that bridging aid III would be adjusted and that concrete recommendations for an opening strategy would be worked out with the associations, which should be presented at the next federal and state consultations at the beginning of March.

But the representatives of the business associations still do not see all of the demands being met. Despite joint recommendations, some still doubt a concrete plan for opening up – regardless of the incidence value -, others doubt the adjustments to bridging aid III.

Associations call for openings based on specific criteria

“We are not asking for specific opening dates, but more objective criteria for a possible opening than the incidence value,” said Josef Sanktjohanser, President of the Main Association of German Retailers (HDE), in the subsequent press conference after the summit. The opening is not about who can open first, but that all companies can open at the same time.

Michael Frenzel, Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry, agreed with this demand: A catalog of data had to be drawn up, such as the R-value or the occupancy of intensive care beds, by which the companies could be measured. “We need more than just waiting, we need political solutions that guarantee a maximum of public life,” he says. This also includes traveling.

Even before the summit, the pressure on Altmaier was high: Associations such as the German Retail Association (HDE) or the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA) demanded a concrete and fair plan to reopen all shops and restaurants, for example in the form of a step-by-step plan. Because in the government’s decision to extend the lockdown further until March 7, this was not foreseen. The faltering aid payments and too much bureaucracy in the applications were also criticized.

Altmaier (CDU) has now announced adjustments to Bridging Aid III after the summit:

  • So far, only larger companies with an annual turnover of a maximum of 750 million euros have been entitled to apply for bridging aid. This upper limit for the bridging aid is to be tipped, so that companies with higher sales will also be eligible to apply in the future.
  • In addition, further criteria for the bridging allowance are to be adjusted without hindering the further application.

Up until now, companies had only received fixed cost subsidies for months if they had at least a 30 percent drop in sales between November 2020 and June 2021, says Ludwig Veltmann, Managing Director of the Mittelstandsverbund, who himself took part in the online business summit. “For example, the Federal Ministry of Economics now wants to check, in exceptional cases, whether companies can also get help that can only demonstrate a 29 percent loss in turnover,” says Veltmann. That is at least a start.

But criticism comes from the opposition.

The minor adjustment of the aids is not enough

“The Altmaier economic summit was again a peak of disappointments,” says Katharina Dröge, economic policy spokeswoman for the Greens. There are only very small readjustments of the aids. In view of the dramatic situation in which many companies are now stuck, the time of eternal mini-steps is over. “The help has to become faster and less complicated and it has to be significantly improved again,” says Dröge to The Greens had prepared an entire discussion paper on the suggestions for improvement.

Guido Zöllick, DEHOGA President, sees a specific need for improvement in the amount of bridging aid: “The reimbursement of fixed costs should be increased to 100 percent for all companies,” he says. So far, only up to 90 percent have been replaced. In addition, no entrepreneur’s wages are taken into account in the aid, i.e. a salary that the entrepreneurs can also pay themselves off. “Many people are threatened with going to the social welfare office,” adds Sanktjohanser (HDE).

For the bridging aid III, after the start last week, 34.6 million euros have flowed as advance payments by the federal government, as the ministry announced on Monday.

Olaf Scholz does not take part in the economic summit

Federal Economics Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) is also seen as responsible for the adjustments and disbursements of aid: “Politicians have made bazooka announcements and promised healthy companies,” says Sanktjohanser. It is also measured by this. Scholz himself was not present at the summit.

It is bad that the summit took place without Finance Minister Scholz, says Dröge. Because Altmaier and Scholz had been blocking each other in a bad way for months. “Conflicts of detail instead of speed is the motto of the two ministers,” she says.

With material from the dpa


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