Country reports

AUSTRIA

Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport
Last update: May 22nd

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 sectors. Moreover, there are various measures by regional governments.

The Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport has launched a hotline, regularly updated FAQs on the website and a study to assess overall financial losses. There is also 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 (including artists), one-person companies, micro enterprises, whose turnover has collapsed due to ‘corona-measures’. The fund is open to cultural institutions and artists and intends to cover the costs of living. 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 shall be granted. The maximum support is EUR 6.000/applicant. Grants are not repayable. The hardship fund is operational from 27 March 2020 and is managed by the Chamber of Commerce.

  • Corona short-time work

This model can also be used by cultural organisations. 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 (in preparation)

The law to implement a new fund in order to support NGOs from various fields including culture is currently negotiated in the Parliament. The fund is endowed with EUR 700 million and will be established in the Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport. Applications will be processed by Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH, the promotional bank of the Austrian federal government.

  • 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 to closures and 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 shall be granted. The maximum support is € EUR .000/applicant. Grants are not repayable. The COVID-19 Fund is operational from 30 March 2020 onwards. 

  • Voucher redemption for cancelled events

A new law was passed on 28 April 2020 for cancelled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic in order 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 for the remaining amount. Vouchers are valid until the end of 2022. After that deadline, a payment of the outstanding amount of the voucher can be requested.

  • 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, EUR 250.000 for art acquisitions).
    • Annual grants by the Ministry will be paid in full, even if not all activities can take place due to the corona crisis. The aim is to ensure maintenance of operations and 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 of 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. From 15 May onwards, museums, libraries and archives have resumed their work. Step by step, they will be followed by smaller events (100 persons) starting on 29 May. Authorised visitor numbers will be gradually extended (250 persons and cinemas from 1 July – 500 persons from 1 August). Major events such as music festivals and city festivals (maximum 1.000 persons) will also be possible from August if they can present a special concept for ensuring safety.