Country reports

AUSTRIA

Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport
Last update: March 4th 2021

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. A study by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research estimates that the pandemic caused EUR 1,5-2 billion damage in the field of culture, which is a quarter of the annual added value.

Since March 2020, the Federal Government has adopted a series of general and sector-specific measures to support the cultural and creative sectors. The Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport has launched a hotline and regularly updated FAQs on the website. Moreover, there are various relevant measures by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs and regional governments.

General support measures by the Federal Government

  • Fund for Non-Profit-Organisations

Since July 2020, there is a fund supporting NPOs from the fields of culture, sport, religious communities and volunteering with EUR 950 million in total. The fund is established by the Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport, while applications are processed by Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH, the promotional bank of the Federal Government. Applicants can receive subsidies for 100% of fixed costs from March until December 2020 and a flat rate for maintenance costs.

  • Hardship fund for self-employment

Since March 2020, one-person companies, micro-enterprises and freelance employees can apply for partial compensation of the net income loss. The fund is administered by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber and has recently been prolonged from 6 to 12 months (until March 2021). Applicants can receive non-repayable grants between EUR 12.000 (minimum) and EUR 30.000 (maximum). The fund is open to freelance artists and cultural SMEs.

  • Corona short-time work

The model for safeguarding jobs was prolonged three times (currently until 30 June 2021). At the moment, the work time can be reduced to 30-80%, while employees remain in stable employment with nearly full wage compensation. This model is also used by major cultural institutions, like federal museums and federal theatres.

  • Further measures
  • Reduction or deferral of social security contributions for freelance operators, including cultural organisations and cultural freelance operators
  • Tax deferrals (income tax, corporate tax etc.)
  • Fixed-cost subsidy for companies
  • Federally secured guarantees for bank loans in order to cover the short-term liquidity
  • Reduction of the VAT to 5% for gastronomy, culture and publishing from July until end of 2021
  • Covid-Start-up Emergency Fund by Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH doubling the equity capital of SMEs
  • Lockdown support for officially closed institutions in November: 80% of the revenues.

Sector-specific measures by the Federal Government

  • Bridge funding for artists

Since July 2020 there is a new fund endowed with EUR 120 million in order to support freelance artists who are in financial emergency due to loss of income. Applications are administered by the Social Insurance Institution for the Self-Employed until 31 March 2021 and applicants must be insured by this institution. Grants amounted to maximum EUR 10.000 for 2020, plus there was an additional lockdown bonus of EUR 2.000. For 2021 the grant is € 3.000, the lockdown bonus € 1.000 (first quarter 2021).

  • COVID-19 Fund for artists and cultural educators

The Artists’ Social Insurance Fund, which has existed since 2015, was increased by EUR 20 million. It shall support artists and cultural educators, who are neither entitled to apply to the hardship fund nor to the bridge funding for artists. The emergency aid amounted to EUR 3.000 for 2020, for the first quarter 2021 it is € 1.500.

  • Voucher redemption for cancelled events

The 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.

  • Comeback grant for film and TV productions

The Federal Government provides EUR 25 million for film and TV productions that have been discontinued due to Covid-19. Film producers can receive a non-repayable grant of up to 75% of the default costs.

  • Protective Shield for events in the field of culture and sport (in preparation)

There is a new instrument to counteract financial risks for event organisers and allow for planning security after the current lockdown in the field of culture and sport congresses and fairs. It is a liability by the Federal Government for non-cancellable costs endowed with € 300 million which can be called upon by event organisers in case of cancellation of events or restriction of visitor numbers. The protective shield covers planned events between 1 February 2021 and 31 December 2022. The fund is administered by the Hotel and Tourism Bank.

  • Grants by the Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport
  • The Ministry has increased subsidies for the most affected cultural sectors: EUR 1,1 million for film; EUR 450.000 for cinemas; EUR 800.000 for the publishing sector; EUR 420.000 for the Austrian Music Fund; EUR 200.000 for theatres; EUR 250.000 for visual art and photography. Federal museums and federal theatres will also receive extra funding to cover revenue losses.
  • Federal Museums (EUR 23,1 million) and Federal Theatres (EUR 10,4 million) also received extra funding to cover revenue losses and ensure staff employment.
  • EUR 1,1 million was allocated to digital projects. There will be a call in 2021.
  • Cultural institutions in existential difficulties, despite of various support instruments, shall receive special funding. The fund will amount to EUR 10 million (guidelines in preparation).

COVID-19 regulations for cultural institutions

After the first lockdown museums, libraries, archives and outdoor cinemas were allowed to reopen on 15 May 2020. Theatres, music halls and cinemas could resume their programme on 29 May with gradually extended visitor numbers until the beginning of September.

Due to the rapid rise of infection numbers, the Federal Government reintroduced restrictions for events on 14 September and then again on 25 October (maximum 1.000 persons indoor and 1.500 persons outdoor with assigned seats).

Due to the rapid spread of the Corona virus the Federal Government introduced a partial lockdown from 3 November and a full lockdown from 17 November until 7 February 2021, which included a ban on events with audience and the closure of all cultural institutions, libraries, bookstores, galleries and specialized arts shops. Artistic performances without audience, rehearsals and audiovisual productions applying protective measures were allowed because they were considered as vocational activity.

According to the gradual reopening plan, museums, libraries, archives, bookstores, galleries and arts shops could reopen on 8 February 2021. Theatres, music halls and cinemas stay closed.