Country reports

AUSTRIA

Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport
Last update: September 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. 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, 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, there is a fund supporting NPOs from the fields of culture, sport, religious communities and volunteering with EUR 700 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 September and a flat rate for maintenance costs.

  • Hardship fund for self-employment

Since March, one-person companies, micro-enterprises and freelance employees can apply for partial compensation of the net income loss over a period of maximum 6 months. The fund is administered by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber. Applicants can receive non-repayable grants between EUR 6.000 (minimum) and EUR 12.000 (maximum). An additional “come-back bonus” of EUR 500 per month has been introduced, which increases the total subsidy to a maximum of EUR 15.000. The fund is open to freelance artists and cultural SMEs.

  • Corona short-time work

The model for safeguarding jobs was prolonged twice (currently until 31 March 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 2021
  • Covid-Start-up Emergency Fund by Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH doubling the equity capital of SMEs

Sector-specific measures by the Federal Government

  • Bridge funding for artists

Since July, there is a new fund endowed with EUR 90 million in order to support freelance artists who are in financial emergency due to loss of income. Applications are administered by the social insurance agency for self-employed persons. Artists and cultural workers can apply for maximum EUR 6.000 (one-off payment).

  • COVID-19 Fund for artists and cultural educators

The Artists’ Social Insurance Fund, which has existed since 2015, was increased by EUR 10 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 amounts to maximum EUR 3.000 (one-off payment).

  • 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 occurred since 16 March.

  • 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.
  • Annual grants of the Ministry are paid in full, even if not all annual activities could take place due to the corona crisis. The aim is to ensure staff employment.
  • Artists and cultural institutions that had to cancel or postpone projects funded by the Ministry had to inform the relevant funding department in order to find a practical solution (case-by-case decisions).

Regulations for cultural institutions and events

Museums, libraries, archives and outdoor cinemas were allowed to reopen on 15 May. Theatres, music halls and cinemas could resume their programme on 29 May with gradually extended visitor numbers until the end of summer. Due to recent rising infections, the Federal Government reintroduced compulsory masks and restrictions for events on 14 September. Events with assigned seats are limited to 1.500 persons indoors and 3.000 persons outdoors. In case of free seats and standing audience, there is a limit of 10 persons indoors and 100 persons outdoors. Additionally, there is a corona traffic light to assess the infection situation in each region.