Fuel, energy, child bonus: How fair is the relief package?

Status: 11.05.2022 17:47

Cheaper gasoline, extra money for energy costs, child bonus: the federal government’s second aid package starts in June. Who benefits? And is it really fair?

By Stefanie Germann and Thomas Denzel, SWR

So far, things have gone smoothly for Wolfgang Zanker financially. The 54-year-old from Neu-Ulm has a job as an engineer in neighboring Ulm, takes care of his 15-year-old son Sebastian as a single parent and earns 2,400 euros net with his part-time job. He actually manages well with that, but then the bills were in the mailbox: Almost 900 euros alone for additional expenses for the last year. At least 150 euros more per month for electricity and water. “And that doesn’t even include spending on food or gasoline,” Zanker says.

“I can no longer manage financially,” he admits. The rising prices in supermarkets, high inflation, energy prices: all this worries him. His joy over the federal government’s relief package is subdued: it’s a “good bonus,” but is it real help? Unfortunately not.

15 billion euros total volume

The federal government wants to spend a total of 15 billion euros to provide financial relief to its citizens – calculated as a hot rainstorm to alleviate the pandemic’s economic hardship and the aftermath of the war. Following the first aid package in February, the Federal Council has now also approved the second aid package. A bundle of extra money and tax breaks in the summer months: From June, the federal government will reduce the tax on gasoline by almost 30 cents per liter and on diesel by almost 14 cents for three months.

At the same time, there is the nine-euro ticket for local public transport: a fixed fare for buses, underground and suburban trains and regional transport – those who already have a subscription will get a refund of the difference. In July, parents also receive a child bonus of 100 euros per child in addition to child allowance. Anyone who is entitled to social benefits such as social assistance or Hartz IV will receive a one-off benefit of 200 euros. And finally, from September, when the heating season is announced, there is the so-called energy price fix: 300 euros gross for each income taxpayer employed.

Retirees and students do not receive an energy rate

“Citizens with small and medium incomes will especially benefit from this,” the federal government’s website says. But there is a lot of criticism from social organizations. The energy rate is “extremely unbalanced and unfair”, criticizes Verena Bentele, president of the largest social association VDK, which advises more than 2.1 million members. Two population groups are empty-handed: students and pensioners. “I will give you an example,” says Bentele, “Mr Lindner will get the 300 euros as Minister of Finance, after deducting tax, he is left with 180. A pensioner with a small pension does not get anything and just has to see how he or she covers the associated costs – Additional payment is administered. And our members rightly complain to us that it is extremely unfair. “

If the social association has its will, it would be fair if everyone, without exception, got the energy rate. Even those who receive basic insurance or Hartz IV. Depending on the tax class, the net income would then shrink – as in the example of Finance Minister Lindner. “An income ceiling would also be conceivable,” says Bentele, “so that people living in well-insulated apartments or in urban areas do not end up getting the most out of it.”

“I also think it would make more sense if everyone had been paid this energy rate,” confirms Sebastian Dullien. He is an economist and is director of the Department of Macroeconomics and Business Research under the Hans Böckler Foundation in Düsseldorf. “We have also pointed out this gap. The legislature should improve it again.”

Justice gap due to too much bureaucracy

But why is it not everyone who gets the one-time benefit? The answer is as fantastic as it is frustrating: it’s bureaucracy. Economist Dullien explains: “We do not have a central register with account information for all citizens, and therefore there is a technical problem right now. The government has announced that it will address this. I think that would make very good sense.” to be honest, this is the way to go about crutches. ”

Employers pay the energy lump sum via their employees’ payroll accounts, which are already a key lane for child benefit – for everyone else, it’s apparently still too complicated. “In the case of pensioners, you can probably go through the pension insurance system. I think that would be good, but you have not done that before,” Dullien adds. “But that does not mean, because a few people do not get the energy stipulation, that it is wrong that it exists at all. A lot of people are now getting a noticeable relief, also through child support.”

100 euro child allowance – Wolfgang Zanker, the single father from Neu-Ulm, calculates: his son Sebastian has 60 euro pocket money. The father subsidizes the fitness center with 15 euros a month. Zanker shrugs: “Of course every euro counts – but 100 euros once from the state? What can I say about that?”

Demand: cheap food instead of fuel

And the other initiatives in the big package? Lower fuel prices for three months? Less useful, says economist Dullien. “Poor people and those on low incomes actually drive very, very little,” he says. “With this reduced fuel tax, rich people with big cars who consume a lot are also subsidized, and that could have been saved at this point.”

In any case, it is doubtful whether the mineral oil companies will pass on the tax relief directly to their customers. Engineer Zanker, however, is not convinced by cheaper summer fuel. “I need a long-term alternative that I can control myself.” His car stays in the garage, instead he cycles the seven kilometers to work in Ulm. “If I drive to the store every day, I save two or three euros a day – if I extrapolate it to the month, then it’s the 50 or 60 euros I’m missing right now.”

Save, even on groceries. Zanker stopped pampering himself with a luxury breakfast a long time ago. Oatmeal with fresh blueberries was really expensive, he says. Now there are apples – so breakfast costs one euro instead of four. A truly effective relief on the part of the federal government would be to reduce VAT on food, Zanker says. A demand that social organizations have also made for a long time. The chairman of the social association VDK, Bentele, wants the VAT on fruit, vegetables and medicines completely abolished: “Since the EU issued a directive on 6 April, the member states have also been able to do so, and it would really be one good relief for everyone. who just spend all their money on daily necessities. “

Who benefits most from the relief package?

And who gets the most benefit from the federal government’s relief package? According to the Department of Macroeconomics and Business Research IMK, there are two types of households: families with a net income of between 2,000 and 2,600 euros and families with an average income of 3,600 to 5,000 euros. “Both types are relieved by up to 1000 euros for the whole year,” explains economist Dullien.

For Wolfgang Zanker from Neu-Ulm, the relief is more like a drop in the bucket. In any case, he can pay off on his bills in installments. “Fortunately, my landlord is very accommodating,” Zanker says, “thank God I’m allowed to pay off the overpayment.”

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