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Database of national-level policy measures

Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure AT-2020-13/212 Updated – measures in Austria

Hardship case fund: Safety net for self-employed

Härtefall-Fonds: Sicherheitnetz für Selbstständige

Country Austria , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 27 March 2020 – 31 March 2022
Context COVID-19
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Income protection beyond short-time work
– Extensions of income support to workers not covered by any kind of protection scheme
Author Bernadette Allinger (Forba) and Eurofound
Measure added 31 March 2020 (updated 02 March 2023)

Background information

As part of the €4 billion fund to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, which the Austrian national government and the social partners presented on 14 March 2020, they also presented two hardship funds: one for self-employed in one person companies; and the other for family-run businesses. This was complementary to other measures, see case AT-2020-12/229 , as those two target groups would not be able to profit from the short-time working schemes.

Content of measure

The support is a one-off payment and does not have to be paid back. In addition, affected owners of one person companies may also obtain funds from the 'emergency fund' (Notfallfonds). The payments cannot be accumulated though. The hardship fund for self-employed is divided in two phases:

  • Phase 1 : Applications are possible until 17 April 2020. Eligible are those who can prove that they are no longer able to cover the running costs or are affected by an officially ordered ban on entry due to COVID-19 or have a drop in sales of at least 50% compared to the same month of the previous year. The amount of the funding is €500 if the net income p.a. was below €6,000 and €1,000 if it was above €6,000. The upper income threshold (above which no grant is paid) is €33,812 net in the last year for which a tax assessment is available. It essentially applies to one person enterprises (including agricultural and forestry and private accommodation rents) and freelance workers.
  • Phase 2 : Applications start on 20 April 2020. The grant depends on the income loss and lies at maximum at €2,000 per month for up to three months. No upper income threshold applies, and small companies with less than ten employees and liberal professions are eligible in addition to the group eligible in phase 1. Negotiations with NGOs are currently ongoing. All applicants (regardless of whether an application has already been submitted in phase 1) will have the same maximum total amount of funding of up to €6,000.

In general, applications for the Hardship Fund can be submitted until 31 January 2021.


The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

01 December 2021

Due to another lock-down in Austria in November/December 2021, the hardship case fund was re-installed (phase IV). Phase IV includes five observation periods (November 2021 to March 2022) and applications can be submitted from 1 December 2021 onwards, until 2 May 2022. For the lock-down months of November and December 2021, eligible beneficiaries are to receive a minimum of €1,100 per month and a minimum of €600 for the first three months of 2022. The sales decrease in November and December must lie at 30%, and at 40% for January to March 2022, compared to the pre-crisis period. The maximum amount to be received lies at €2,000 per month; the general rule is the same as in phase III - a maximum of 80% of the positive difference between the net income of the comparison period (pre-crisis) and the net income of the period under consideration plus an amount of €100 is replaced.

28 September 2021

On 28 September, reports on the number of applications and payments to beneficiaries were published by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which show the total number of users of the measure and reimbursements up to 31 July 2021.

15 June 2021

The hardship case fund is to be extended until the 30 September 2021, as announced by the federal government. Companies with a decline in sales of at least 50% are eligible. The funding lies between €600 and €2,000 for a company. Applications may be brought in until 31 October 2021.

16 April 2021

The prolongation of the Corona hardship fund (which was announced in January) has come into effect as of 16 April 2021 and applications can be submitted as of this day. The twelve-month consideration period has been extended by three months until 15 June 2021. An additional bonus of €100 euros per month is granted and transfers are now also possible to non-Austrian bank accounts. Also small and micro enterprises which have been founded as of 31 October 2020 are eligible.

Between 300,000 and 450,000 additional applications due to the extension are expected by the government. In total, €2,600 per month can be collected per applicant, i.e. a total of up to €39,000. The extension of the measure and the additional bonus will generate around €500 million in payments in total (around €140 million through the additional bonus), according to a joint government paper.

31 March 2021

Already in January 2021, a political decision on the prolongation of the fund until the end of June 2021 has been made. However, the legal regulation is still being awaited, so that no information on the nature of the extension is available. The WKO expects a prolongation of the pre-existing model.

07 October 2020

The Council of Ministers agreed on the extension of the measure as requested by the WKO on 7 October 2020. The duration is extended to twelve months, i.e. from 16 March 2020 to 15 March 2021. The maximum amount received is €2,500 per month, i.e. €30,000 in total. The hardship fund is intended to help micro-enterprises, freelancers and farmers who have financial difficulties due to the corona crisis.

16 September 2020

The Federal Economic Chamber (WKO) has called for an extension of the measure - an application should be possible for twelve instead of six months.

27 May 2020

An expansion of the safety net self-employed was announced on 27 May. Next to the prolongation of the period over which grants can be obtained from three to six months, a so called 'come back bonus' of €500 was introduced. This will be added automatically to already existing grants. Including this bonus the minimum amount of the grant will be raised to €1,000. Another novelty is that also pensioners in marginal employment are going to be eligible for the grant.

Use of measure

Information from 1 April 2020: Around 100,000 applications for phase one were counted so far. The total funds for the hardship fund were increased from €1 to 2 billion.

Information from 20 April 2020: The first phase has been completed with 144,000 applications made. A total of €121 million. was paid out in the first phase.

As of mid-September 2020, a total of almost 195,000 people have been supported in phases one and two and around €528.7 million have been paid out. In the most recent period under review (mid-July to mid-August), an average of around €1,200 was paid out in each case.

As of mid-October 2020, around 203,000 people have applied for assistance from the COVID-19 hardship fund since the beginning and €700 million have been spent. On average, €1,200 were paid per individual in the period between 16 September and 15 October 2020. According to a survey conducted in July and August 2020 by KMU Research Austria, 57% of one-person enterprises have taken advantage of government support measures in connection with the COVID-19 crisis. Of these, almost all entrepreneurs have applied for the hardship fund. Significantly fewer have also applied for tax and duty deferrals (36%), installment payments or deferrals of social security contributions (35%) and fixed cost subsidies (29%).

Data from March 2021 show that so far, €1.22 billion (of the total budget of €2 billion) have been paid or committed. On average, just below €1,200 were paid per person and month.

According to reports on payments regarding the hardship case fund from the Ministry of Economic Affairs for May, June and July 2021, in total, 1,887,598 applications were submitted between the start of the measure and 31 July 2021. Of these, 1,577,081 were positively completed, resulting in payments to beneficiaries in the amount of €1.94 billion. The beneficiaries are primarily active in trades, tourism and gastronomy, as well as in the social and health care sectors.

Since the beginning of the measures until the end of September 2022, 2,362,484 applications were received for the hardship case fund for self-employed, of which 2,057,632 applications were positively settled with payments of around €2.4 billion. The funding recipients in phases I to IV are primarily in the sectors of trade/craft, tourism/gastronomy, trade and social/health care.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
One person or microenterprises
Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Employers' organisations
National funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Agreed (outcome) incl. social partner initiative Agreed (outcome) incl. social partner initiative
Form Direct consultation outside a formal body Direct consultation outside a formal body

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Only employers' organisations
  • Main level of involvement: Peak or cross-sectoral level


The Federal Economic Chamber was involved.

Views and reactions

Social partners were consulted and agreed on the package. The employers organisation WKO is closely involved in the implementation, by informing and supporting their members.


  • 26 March 2020: Härtefallfonds soll bis zu 6.000 Euro auszahlen (
  • 31 March 2020: Hardship fund: safety net for the self-employed (Härtefall-Fonds: Sicherheitsnetz für Selbständige) (
  • 31 March 2020: Haertefallfonds - Regulation (
  • 20 April 2020: Uptake of hardship fund - first phase (
  • 27 May 2020: Improvements in the hardship fund: comeback bonus and higher minimum support for the self-employed (
  • 16 September 2020: WKO calls for extension of hardship case fund (
  • 07 October 2020: NPO and hoardship fund are extended (
  • 13 October 2020: Bundesministerium für Finanzen - Information (
  • 13 November 2020: On average €1,200 paid (
  • 31 March 2021: Prolongation of hardship case fund awaited (
  • 16 April 2021: Hardship fund extended (
  • 15 June 2021: Government extends and adapts Corona aid (


Eurofound (2020), Hardship case fund: Safety net for self-employed, measure AT-2020-13/212 (measures in Austria), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin,


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Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.