Country reports

AUSTRIA

Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport
Last update: June 4th

As in all European countries, the Austrian cultural scene is severely affected by the measures to combat the corona virus. All cultural institutions suffer from a major loss of revenues from ticket sales and rental of venues. The loss of income poses an existential threat for many freelance artists, cultural operators and NGOs in the field of culture.

The Federal Government has adopted a series of general and sector-specific measures to support the cultural sector. Moreover, there are various measures by regional governments. The Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport has launched a hotline, a regularly updated FAQs on its website and a study to assess overall financial losses. There also is an ongoing dialogue with representatives from all cultural sectors (round tables, surveys).


General support measures by the Federal Government

  • Hardship Fund

The fund, endowed with EUR 2 billion, provides financial support for self-employed workers, one-person companies and micro enterprises, whose turnover has collapsed due to corona related measures. The fund is also open to artists and cultural SMEs and intends to cover the costs of living. The grant amounts to a minimum EUR 1.000/month for a period of up to 6 months. Grants are not repayable. The hardship fund is operational since 27 March 2020 and managed by the Chamber of Commerce.

  • Corona short-time work

This model can also be used by cultural institutions. The work schedule can be reduced to 10% (temporarily 0 hours of work possible), while employees remain in stable employment with nearly full wage compensation.

  • Fund for Non-Profit-Organisations

The fund will support NPOs from the fields of culture, sport and volunteering with EUR 700 million in total. The fund will be established in the Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport and applications will be processed by Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH, the promotional bank of the Federal Government, starting from the beginning of July.

  • Further measures
    • Social security contributions: reduction and deferral for freelance operators, including cultural organisations and cultural freelance operators
    • Tax reliefs


Sector-specific measures by the Federal Government

  • COVID-19 Fund for artists and cultural educators

The existing Artists’ Social Insurance Fund was increased by EUR 5 million to compensate income losses of artists and cultural educators having difficulties to cover their living costs due cancellations. The fund is open to artists and cultural educators who are not entitled to apply for the hardship fund. The initial grant amounts to EUR 1.000, in a second phase up to EUR 2.000/month for a period of up to 3 months. Grants are not repayable. The COVID-19 Fund has been operational since 30 March 2020. 

  • Bridge funding for artists (in preparation)

From July, freelance artists will be able to apply for bridge funding of EUR 1.000/month for up to 6 months. This measure is endowed with EUR 90 million and shall ease the financial situation of freelance artists. It will be processed by the social insurance agency for self-employed persons.

  • Voucher redemption for cancelled events

The new law for cancelled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic aims to ensure the liquidity of event organisers. Instead of refunding, a voucher can be issued for tickets amounting up to EUR 70. For more expensive tickets, reimbursement is possible up to EUR 180 combined with vouchers. Vouchers are valid until the end of 2022. After that deadline, a payment of the outstanding amount of the voucher can be requested.

  • Default costs for film productions

The Federal Government provides EUR 25 million for audiovisual productions (cinema, TV, documentary films, commercials) that have been discontinued due to COVID-19. Film producers can receive a non-repayable grant of up to 75% of the default costs that occurred since 16 March.

  • Grants by the Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport
    • Subsidies have been increased by EUR 3,1 million (EUR 1,2 million for the Austrian film and EUR 500.000 for cinemas, EUR 800.000 for the publishing sector, EUR 420.000 for the Austrian Music Fund and EUR 250.000 for art acquisitions).
    • Annual grants by the Ministry are paid in full, even if not all activities can take place due to the Corona crisis. The aim is to ensure the employment of staff.
    • In case events and projects funded by the Ministry are affected by cancellations or postponements, artists and cultural institutions are asked to inform the funding department in charge of their grant agreement in order to find a practical and accurate solution for every individual case (case-by-case decisions).


Lifting the lockdown measures in the field of culture

The shutdown measures and the extraordinarily high level of discipline among the population have led to a considerable decline of infection numbers. Thus, Austria has started a gradual unlocking, while still observing general protection requirements. Starting from 15 May, museums, libraries and archives have resumed their work. Since 29 May, events with up to 100 persons may take place.

Step by step, authorised visitor numbers will be gradually extended. From 1 July, events with allocated seats may welcome 250 persons indoors and 500 outdoors,  and from 1 August, 500 persons indoors and 750 outdoors. With a special safety concept and permission by the regional administrative authorities, 1.000 persons indoors and 1.250 persons outdoors are allowed. Events with standing places are still limited to 100 persons until 31 August.