Self-employed and suffering in lockdown? Here's how to apply for "November aid"

Solo self-employed people affected by the "lockdown light" can apply for up to €5,000 compensation. But the application is anything but straightforward.

An aid programme for small businesspeople suffering in the November lockdown light should go online soon.
An aid programme for small businesspeople suffering in the November lockdown light should go online soon.Photo: Monika Skolimowska/dpa-Zentralbi

Though the month is nearly over, many freelancers and small businesspeople are still waiting for the "November aid" promised by the German government.

The latest aid programme is intended to alleviate economic hardship caused by the second corona lockdown. But the patience of many businesspeople is being tested. Some are toying with the idea of giving up for good.

"It's really hard. In the spring we had the feeling that we could get by. The fasttrack aid from the IBB gave us the feeling that the state was helping you. Now everything is very worrying," says Anna Arndt, proprietor of the BeautySpa cosmetic salon at the Weinmeister Hotel in Mitte.

Only very recently was Arndt able to submit her application for the latest support for her firm through her tax consultant. She expects the processing to take at least three weeks. And she had to overcome plenty of bureaucratic hurdles. Although the Berlin Chamber of Industry and Commerce has been keeping businesses informed about the situation, many uncertainties remain.

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The reason for problems this time is that the aid is coming from the federal government and not from the state of Berlin and its investment bank, Investitionsbank Berlin Brandenburg (IBB). The IBB is nevertheless working round the clock to support companies.

IBB managing director Jürgen Allerkamp, told the Berliner Zeitung: "IBB staff have been working on corona aid intensively for nine months. We now have 11 different programmes, some of them in their third round. So we know how important this support is for the companies affected by the partial lockdown. We're confident that the federal government will provide the legal and technical framework for processing the November aid." 

Now companies are hoping clarification will come after chancellor Angela Merkel's meeting with Germany's 16 state premiers on Wednesday, where, among other things, "compensation payments" for companies will be on the agenda. "Solo self-employed" people can already apply for up to €5,000. For small firms, an amount of €10,000 is being discussed.

Sole traders, freelancers and small companies can already apply for the federal government's Überbrückungshilfen II (bridge aid) programme. These are the ongoing subsidies for the months September through December, which can be applied for via a tax consultant at

When it comes to Novemberhilfe ("November aid") - an additional programme specifically designed to help businesses directly affected by the November lockdown - the federal government and the Länder (states) have yet to clarify all the details. The IBB has not yet been commissioned by the Senat (Berlin's state government) to implement this programme. The IBB is already implementing the federal Überbrückungshilfe II, so it is likely that the IBB will also handle the November aid programme. The IBB examines applications submitted by the tax consultants before transferring the funds.

"Solo self-employed" people can apply without a tax consultant

Applications by "solo self-employed people" (such as freelancers) for up to €5,000 aid can be submitted without the help of a tax consultant but the applicant's identity must be confirmed via an Elster certificate (the technology used to submit online tax declarations) which has to be download onto their computers. Following a technical check, these payments are performed directly by the federal treasury, with no involvement by the federal states. Anyone who fails the technical check is, however, automatically referred to their respective state's authorising body. In Berlin this could be the IBB. Applications for higher amounts of Novemberhilfe  must go through tax consultants using a platform operated by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology - and which is still having technical difficulties. Payments are supposed to begin in early December.

The IBB points out that applicants should avoid applying for multiple subsidies, or as the IBB puts it: "If you would like to take advantage of further funding measures to cushion your financial risk, you can do so. It is only important that individual expense items are not funded twice. When applying for other programmes, you should therefore ensure that there is no double funding. For example, emergency aid for bars and restaurants cannot be asked for if Überbrückungshilfe II  has already been applied for or approved. Please indicate in the application whether you have already applied for or received small grants."

Anna Arndt of BeautySpa has only managed to get through the year so far by being extremely thrifty. Yet the cost and effort of the applications have been a heavy burden.

And she faces another problem: "We don't know if the Weinmeister Hotel, from whom we rent our space, will survive. If the hotel gives up, I'll have to fire my staff and close down the business." And due to Berlin's high rents, the businesswoman doesn't see continuing her business in another location.