Artists and freelancers have been hit hard by the closure of cultural institutions and widespread cancellation of gigs, events and exhibitions. To support the local creative community, we’ve put together this guide to Covid-19 resources for Berlin freelancers.
For freelancers, the creative industry and cultural sector, a precarious financial situation has been made even more precarious due to the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent shutdown.
The Deutscher Kulturrat called for emergency funds for artists, to be jointly provided and made quickly accessible by the federal and state governments. And Germany’s Minister of Culture, Monika Grütters, followed this call with an announcement that creatives and the cultural sector will be “taken into account when it comes to support measures and liquidity assistance”.
Following this, Berlin’s mayor, Michael Müller, announced that Berlin would offer one-time aid to self-employed individuals. These funds would be directed to those who have been strongly impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, particularly in creative industries.
State and federal emergency grant programs were rolled out to support Berlin-based freelancers and small businesses.
Some details of these programs are outlined here, as well as other relevant Covid-19 tips and resources for Berlin freelancers. For regular updates, check our Covid-19 news for Berliners.
Getting Financial Assistance in Germany
According to the Federal Ministry of Health, freelancers and self-employed individuals who can no longer work as a result of the virus — as in, those who have been involuntarily quarantined or prohibited from working — will receive compensation for loss of earnings.
To receive compensation, freelancers can download and fill out an application via the Senatsverwaltung für Finanzen. Please note that compensation received will be based on your tax declaration from the previous calendar year and paid out on a monthly basis.
Corona Grants – State and Federal Funding
UPDATE – 06.04.2020: Applications for corona emergency grants have reopened via IBB. It is possible for freelancers and small businesses to apply only for federal aid to cover professional/business expenses (material and financial, e.g., commercial rents or leases, leasing expenses, personnel costs for employees). The compensation of loss of turnover and fees for personal living expenses, health insurance premiums, etc. are not included.
Due to the impact of coronavirus, the state of Berlin enacted measures to support the Berlin economy. Soforthilfe II, for individual freelancers and small businesses (with up to 5 employees), could be applied to for a maximum of 5,000 euros for a period of six months by individuals, and a period of three months by a company with up to 5 employees. This program ended on 1 April 2020.
At the federal level, emergency aid is being made available for small companies and self-employed individuals — which includes individual artists, as well. This is intended to provide immediate, unbureaucratic financial aid in the form of grants. Micro-enterprises with zero to five employees can apply to receive up to 9,000 euros. Enterprises with up to ten employees are eligible for up to 15,000 euros. These federal funds can only be used for current operating costs: e.g., commercial rent, leasing expenses, etc. The application is available on the website of the Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB).
For further information, also see our guide to how to apply.
Over the last few days it has become possible for small to medium businesses to apply for interest-free bridging loans of up to EUR 0.5 million with a term of up to 2 years (Soforthilfe-Paket I). To be eligible for this, businesses must hold premises in Berlin and have existed at least three years. Further information and details on the application procedure are available via the IBB website.
If you received funding for a project that has been cancelled
The current status from the Kulturstaatsministerin (BKM) is that the premature discontinuation of funded cultural projects and events will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Individual projects will be taken into consideration to see whether it will be possible to waive the reclaiming of funds already spent.
The Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe also provides an info sheet on its website, which details how to deal with the impact of Covid-19 on funded projects.
The Kulturstiftung des Bundes urges those with affected projects to contact them about issues they are facing as a result of Covid-19, so that a solution can be worked through together. Apart from that, they express that previously incurred costs are eligible for funding, even if a planned event can no longer take place. They are also making an effort to adapt existing project funding, if possible, to the new situation — i.e., if events/projects are being postponed or changed to a digital format.
If you’re self-employed with at least one salaried employee
Short-time work compensation is being made available to help companies to keep their employees in spite of a loss in earnings due to the corona crisis. This means that the Federal Employment Agency may pay around 60% of the lost net wage if employees are put on short-time work. Plus, employers receive a reimbursement of social security contributions for lost working hours. This compensation can be applied to by employers if at least 10% of their workforce faces a significant decrease in work time. The Federal Ministry of Labour is also working on adapting the conditions for the payment of short-time working compensation to the current situation.
If you are a member of GEMA
GEMA is initiating an emergency aid program with pup to 40 million Euros to support its members. The program is intended for composers, lyricists and music publishers who have been financially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
There will be two stages to the aid program. The first is Schutzschirm LIVE (protective shield): flat-rate emergency aid provided by GEMA in the form of an advance payment. This stage is primarily aimed at helping music authors who are also performers and are facing a loss of income due to event cancellations. IIf a member’s financial difficulties are beyond the scope of the first stage of the program, they can apply to the ‘Corona Relief Fund’. This second stage of emergency aid provides transitional aid for individual cases of hardship. Further information on the aid program and application procedure will be made available this week on GEMA’s website.
If you are registered with Gesellschaft zur Verwertung von Leistungsschutzrechten mbH (GVL)
If you’re an artistic performer, producer or event organizer and have a representation agreement as a rightsholder with GVL, you may be entitled to emergency help through their social grants program. GVL is providing one-time financial assistance of 250 Euros to rightsholders who work on a freelance basis and have lost income due to Covid-19-related event cancellations. Visit the GVL website for further information and to download the application form.
Additional tips for individual freelancers
bbk Berlin encourages artists to document any loss of income as per the guidelines set out by the union ver.di and the VS – Association of German Writers. Ver.di’s website provides a suggested template for this documentation, as well as further information as to what should be documented — including cancelled readings, performances, workshops, etc. and the associated income or already-paid expenses lost as a result. Collecting and composing these details is essential preparation in order to submit for possible emergency funding.
Any loss of income should also be reported to the Künstlersozialkasse (KSK), if you are insured by and pay taxes into the artist’s social insurance system. To do so, fill out and submit the Änderungsmitteilung form. This will help to ensure that your monthly payments are lowered accordingly. You can also check with KSK, or wherever you make your health insurance payments, to see if you are eligible for Krankengeld, which may be possible to receive after being on sick leave for six weeks.
Berlin-based activist platform Critical Workers also provides further tips for ‘How not to go broke during covid-19‘. For freelancers, this includes the possibility of Ausfallhonorar (Cancellation Compensation), which would have to have been previously agreed upon with your client. Or applying for Arbeitslosengeld II, also known as Hartz IV (unemployment funds), through the Jobcenter. According to the Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa, there will likely be an adjustment made to the process, in order to make it quicker and less bureaucratic during the corona crisis. Please note that ALG II is not unconditional basic income.
For the time being and as a result of the effects of the corona crisis, the Berlin Immigration Office has now also made it possible to access such social benefits without invalidating your residency permit — in spite of conditional stipulations outlined therein.
Self-employed individuals may also be able to receive a suspension or reduction on current advance income tax payments. Tax payments that are due may also be deferred and late-payment charges may be waived. To find out more, contact the tax office where you are registered.
Check back on ArtConnect for regular updates to this guide and to keep informed about remote opportunities. You can also create your own virtual opportunities to connect with other creatives and build community.
Let’s all stay home, stay safe and stick together in these challenging times.
If you have any information that you think could help the creative community of Berlin, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to share it.