So now after all: literally at the last minute, the grand coalition agreed on an electoral reform. And also with the extension A breakthrough was achieved through financial aid in the Corona crisis.
After a tough struggle, the leaders of the CDU / CSU and SPD have agreed, among other things, on an electoral reform as well as the extension of short-time work benefits and Corona aid for medium-sized businesses. Here an overview of the decisions:
- In the electoral reform After years of controversy, a compromise was reached to reduce the size of the Bundestag. The number of constituencies is to remain untouched for the 2021 election, and the number is to be reduced from 299 to 280 by 2025. A reform commission is to clarify the details. As early as 2021, however, up to three overhang mandates should no longer be compensated. The exact effect of this measure is not yet foreseeable.
- Companies in Germany can find jobs in the corona crisis wProtect yourself through simplified short-time work. This should be extended from the regular 12 to up to 24 months. The extended period is to apply to companies that have introduced short-time work by December 31, 2020. At the longest, the short-time allowance should be extended until December 31, 2021.
- Legally insured people stand for 2020 because of the Corona crisis more sick days to care for their children to disposal. Child sickness benefit is to be granted for an additional five days for parents and for single parents for an additional ten days.
- Even when schools and daycare are closed due to Corona Children of poorer parents continue to receive free lunch can. The children are to be provided with lunch as part of the education package until December 31, 2020. The decision paper does not reveal how many children last made use of the special regulation. In the spring, critics complained that home deliveries by a locally recognized provider were difficult to implement.
- Who cares for relatives due to corona or reorganize care can be absent from work for up to 20 working days this year. The care support allowance can also be used for up to 20 working days if care is provided at home due to corona-related supply bottlenecks.
- Those particularly affected by the crisis Artists, small self-employed and small business owners should have easier access to basic social security. In addition, more generous rules should apply to protective assets. Access to basic social security, which has been made easier due to the Corona crisis, is also to be extended – until the end of 2021.
- The bridging aid for small and medium-sized businesses are extended until the end of the year. The program is currently limited to the end of August. According to the current status, fixed operating costs of up to 150,000 euros in total will be reimbursed for the months of June to August. The federal government had budgeted 25 billion euros for the subsidies. The disbursement of the funds via the countries is slow, also because the procedure is complex – politicians want to prevent cases of fraud such as with Corona emergency aid. The bridging aid was an important component of the coalition’s economic stimulus package agreed in June.
- The remaining Relaxation in bankruptcy law are extended to further prevent a wave of bankruptcies. Until the end of the year, the regulation on the suspension of the obligation to file for insolvency for the reason for filing for overindebtedness will continue to be suspended. The obligation to file for insolvency was suspended from March to the end of September for cases in which the insolvency or overindebtedness of companies is due to the consequences of the corona pandemic.
- From the EU Corona aid funds A digital education offensive is to be financed, which consists of 500 million euros for equipping teachers with digital devices. On the other hand, the establishment of a nationwide education platform is to be promoted, which is supposed to enable a protected and quality-assured space for high-quality digital teaching content.
- A funding program of 500 million euros, limited to 2020 and 2021, is to be implemented Corona-compliant retrofitting of air conditioning systems be financed in public buildings and places of assembly.
- A working group should get to work to To anchor children’s rights in the Basic Law. The Union and SPD had already agreed on this in the coalition agreement.
- Another working group is also to be set up campaign for less red tape. Specifically, it is said that the coalition will set up a high-level working group to identify the regulatory content for a “Bureaucracy Relief Act IV”. The aim of the law should be to strengthen the economy, to relieve bureaucracy and to maintain the high standards in force.
Kramp-Karrenbauer: Coalition is able to act
With the breakthrough in the reform of the electoral law and the extension of the short-time work allowance, the grand coalition has shown, according to Kramp-Karrenbauer, that it is capable of acting. Given the Corona-Pandemie many measures would be extended, said Kramp-Karrenbauer after the meeting of the party leaders. CSU boss Markus Söder spoke of a fair compromise on the right to vote.
SPD leader Saskia Esken also pointed out that 500 million euros would be made available to digitally equip teachers. This should create a new educational platform. In addition, competence centers for digital training would be created. With the education offensive, schools should arrive in the 21st century.
Compromise on the right to vote
The compromise on the electoral law provides that further growth of the Bundestag in the 2021 election should be prevented by a dampening measure. The right reform should not take effect until 2025. To this end, a reform commission is to be set up in this electoral period, said the chairmen of the CDU and SPD, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Norbert Walter-Borjans late Tuesday evening with. For the time being, the number of constituencies will remain the same, explained Walter-Borjans. “As a result, this is something that leads us to expect that the Bundestag will be significantly smaller and that it will still be composed fairly and correctly reflect the election result,” said Walter-Borjans. The number of constituencies is to be left at 299 for the federal election in 2021 and then reduced to 280 in 2025. Kramp-Karrenbauer emphasized that the electoral reform was “a very difficult topic”. Söder said the debate about the electoral reform was “a bit tougher”: “At the beginning there was less rumble, but more rum.” But it speaks for the seriousness “that despite very different starting positions in the end a fair compromise was found”.
The planned commission is to be composed of scientists, parliamentarians and other members and will present a result by June 30, 2023 at the latest. It should also advise on lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 years, extending the electoral term from 4 to 5 years, equal representation of women and men on candidate lists and in the Bundestag, as well as modernizing parliamentary work.
Different concepts, high pressure to reach agreement
The two coalition partners entered the coalition committee with completely different concepts. This was under great pressure to reach agreement. The next Bundestag should be elected in almost exactly one year. And the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe has stipulated in a code of conduct that about a year before an election its rules should be established.
But the grand coalition must first approach the opposition and try to involve them too. Questions of the right to vote are usually decided by a large majority in the Bundestag.
The reform of the electoral law is intended to prevent the Bundestag from becoming larger again in the autumn 2021 election. With 709 MPs, it has already reached a record level. The standard size is 598 MPs. Without reform, it is feared that it will grow to possibly more than 800 MPs. There is broad consensus in the Bundestag that this would impair the parliament’s ability to work. It would also increase costs.
Short-time work allowance and help for medium-sized businesses
Companies in Germany can further secure jobs in the Corona crisis through simplified short-time work. The leaders of the Union and the SPD agreed to extend the simplified short-time work from regular 12 to up to 24 months. Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) wants to bring the plans to the federal cabinet this Wednesday.
The extended period is to apply to companies that have introduced short-time work by December 31, 2020. At the longest, the short-time allowance should be extended until December 31, 2021. So that the Federal Employment Agency (BA) can shoulder the billions in costs for short-time work, the coalition wants to loosen tax money – as a grant and not as a loan.
The currently applicable rules for easier access to short-time work allowance should apply until December 31, 2021 – for all companies that started short-time work by March 31, 2021. The point here is that only 10 percent of the workforce in a company has to be affected by a loss of pay and that negative working time balances do not need to be built up.
The social security contributions should be fully reimbursed by June 30, 2021. From July 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021 at the latest, half of the social security contributions are to be reimbursed for all companies that have introduced short-time working by June 30, 2021. This half reimbursement can be increased to 100 percent – but only if qualification takes place during short-time work.
Increase in short-time allowance
The short-time work allowance will be increased further to 70 or 77 percent from the fourth month and to 80 or 87 percent from the seventh month. This rule is to be extended to December 31, 2021 for all those who are entitled to short-time work benefits by March 31, 2021. The regular short-time allowance amounts to 60 percent of the lost net wage, 67 percent for working people with children.
The rule that mini-jobs up to 450 euros are generally free of credit will be extended from existing additional earning opportunities. The possibility that temporary workers can receive short-time work allowance is extended. Applicable tax relief for employer subsidies on short-time work allowance is granted until December 31, 2021. And depending on the development of the pandemic, a further possible extension should be decided later.
The Union recently opposed what it considered to be an overly generous extension of the instrument. The CDU labor market expert Weiß criticized the fact that, according to Heil’s original plans, companies should receive full reimbursement of social security contributions from employees on short-time work by March 2022.
IG Metall boss Jörg Hofmann had demanded as a condition for reimbursement of social security contributions for employers that companies refrain from redundancies for operational reasons. Further qualification should also be necessary for a complete reimbursement. The Institute for Employment Research (IAB) had also advocated that an extension of short-time work should usually be linked to using the time for professional qualification.
Critics had warned that short-time work should not be mixed with short-time work in structural change due to the Corona lull. Businesses shouldn’t be artificially preserved.