State Aid for Cost of Living Crisis

Person calculating expenses with a calculator
Update 24.11.2022

What types of government support are available?

Due to rising prices, many currently struggle to pay their rent and electricity and heating bills. When shopping for groceries, things often get tight. Therefore, the state has designated various financial aids to lighten the burden to some extent. This chapter explains what types of support you can seek concerning electricity and heating bills, rent and children's expenses.
Please note: Here, we only list support offers you can get as of now – if the state decides on a new form of aid, we will add it to this chapter.

Electricity

I cannot pay my electricity bill. What should I do?

Contact your electricity provider and ask them for a deferral or "Stundung" – a deferral means you can pay your debt later. You can ask for a deferral if your electricity company increases your monthly payment (because energy prices have risen) and you cannot pay the increased bill. Advance payment ("Abschlagszahlung") is the estimated amount you transfer monthly to your provider. Your provider usually calculates your actual consumption at the end of the year.

Please note: A deferral does not mean you are exempt from payment. You still have to repay the debts later. Otherwise, your provider can terminate your contract. You can learn more about unpaid electricity bills in our "Housing" chapter.

 

Does the Jobcenter or Social Welfare Office support me with the high costs?

The Jobcenter or Social Welfare Office can take over what you owe to your electricity provider or utility bills from your landlord BUT only once and only in case you do not receive child allowance, housing benefit or BAföG.

For Jobcenter or Social Welfare Office to take over your debts, you must submit an informal application and request them to take over your energy-related debts. Important: You must do so in the month you must pay the amount. Keep in mind, only then will the office in question bear the costs. You can apply by email, but whether you need to send additional documents varies from authority to authority.

You can formulate the application like this:

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

hiermit beantrage ich [Vorname] [Nachname], geboren am [Geburtsdatum] in [Geburtsstadt/Geburtsland], formlos und fristgerecht die Übernahme der Kosten, die mir durch die gestiegenen Energiepreise im Rahmen der Nebenkostenabrechnung für meine Mietwohnung entstanden sind.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

[Your signature]

 

Different rules apply to the following groups:

  • Pensioners can apply for basic sustenance security ("Grundsicherung") at the Social Welfare Office. Be sure to submit your application in the same month you must pay. With the "Grundsicherung", you should be able to cover your rent, health and nursing care insurance, and everyday expenses (food and clothes). You can learn more in our chapter "Retiring in Germany".
  • Students can apply for Unemployment Benefit II – but only once. Be sure to submit your application in the same month you must pay. To meet the deadline, you can first submit an informal application (for unemployment benefit II) and fill out the application later. You can learn more in our "Jobcenter" chapter.
  • Recipients of Unemployment Benefit II can ask the Jobcenter for an interest-free loan, which is a kind of advance. Important: The Jobcenter will deduct the borrowed amount from your unemployment benefit in instalments until the loan has been repaid.
Can I get financial help from the state because electricity prices have increased?

The federal government has decided on various aids so far. Here you will find an overview of the support available.

The energy price flat rate ("Energiepreispauschale ")

The energy price flat rate is a one-off payment of €300 gross from the state. Gross means a specific amount is deducted from the €300 before payment. Currently (as of November 2022) the following groups are entitled to the energy price flat rate:

  • Self-employed and employees who live in Germany, have been working and paying taxes on their wages in 2022.
  • Mini-jobbers
  • Students doing a compulsory internship.
  • Working students
  • Seasonal workers
  • Pensioners who live in Germany and have been receiving a pension since at least December 1, 2022

How to get the energy price flat rate:

  • Employees received the lump sum in September 2022 with their wages. To benefit, you must have been working in the workplace and making social security contributions since September 1, 2022, at the latest. You can also receive the energy price flat rate via your income tax return if your employer does not pay it – the same applies to employees who started working after September 1, 2022.
  • For the self-employed: The Tax Office will reduce your tax prepayment ("Steuervorauszahlung") for September 2022 by €300.
  • Mini-jobbers received the lump sum in September 2022 with their wages. For you to receive it, your employer must declare that your mini-job is your primary job. You can also obtain the energy price flat rate via your income tax return if your employer does not pay it – the same applies to employees who started working after September 1, 2022.
  • Students and seasonal workers receive the amount when submitting their income tax returns for 2022.
  • Pensioners will probably receive the flat rate automatically in their accounts in December (as of November 2022). If you have yet to receive it, apply at the Deutschen Rentenversicherung Knappschaft-Bahn-See. You can do so from January 09, 2023, to June 30, 2023.

Important: For every income tax return received for 2022, the Tax Office automatically checks whether the person was entitled to the energy price flat rate. So, if you have not received it through your employer, submit a tax return for the year 2022.

 

One-time payment for energy costs to recipients of social benefits

Recipients of unemployment benefit II, social assistance or basic security entitled to such benefits in July 2022 would receive a one-off payment of €200. You should have received the money by September 2022 at the latest directly into your account and did not have to apply. If you have not received any money despite entitlement, contact your Jobcenter or Social Welfare Office.

 

One-off payment for energy costs to recipients of unemployment benefits I

Recipients of unemployment benefit I receive €100 if they were entitled to unemployment benefit I in July 2022. You should have received the money by September 2022 at the latest directly into your account and did not have to apply. Contact your Employment Agency if you have not received any money despite entitlement.

Heating

My landlords demand higher rent because of the increased energy prices. Are they allowed to do that?

Your landlords will probably increase your rent if your rent includes heating, i.e. you pay "Warmmiete". Paying "Warmmiete" means you pay something for the heating every month, even though you mainly use it in winter. This payment is called advance payment or part payment ("Vorauszahlung" or "Abschlagszahlung"). You will often receive a bill for your total heating costs at the end or middle of the year. Your landlords will deduct all of your advance payments from your actual consumption. The difference is the amount you have to pay or (in case you save energy) get reimbursed.

If your landlords ask you for more money, in principle, it is because they are adjusting your advance payments to the new energy prices. This way, you would have to pay more monthly but won't have to pay a large lump sum on your next annual heating bill. However, your landlord must show you proof, such as a letter from the energy provider or a current bill to prove they have to pay more for the energy. They cannot increase the rent if they can't provide you with receipts. The general justification that prices have increased does not count as evidence.

Important: Even if your landlord is not adjusting your advance payments, try to put some money aside to ensure you have enough money for your heating bill, which is likely to be high. The annual energy bill can become quite expensive compared to the past years due to the rise in gas and oil prices. The "Heizspiegel" provides an overview of how expensive the costs could be for 2022.

My energy provider is demanding more money from me. Are they allowed to do that?

The energy provider is the company from which you get your electricity or the energy for your heating, i.e., oil, gas or district heating.

If your provider is asking you for more money, they are likely increasing your advance payment. These are the payments that you transfer to your provider monthly. Often, at the end or in the middle of a year, you will receive a bill for your total consumption. Your provider will deduct all of your prepayments from the price of what you have actually consumed. The difference is the amount you have to pay or get reimbursed, depending on your amount of consumption.

Be sure to read the letter from your provider carefully. If you have trouble understanding it, seek help. Check out the section "Where can I find advice and support?" to find out where you can find support. Keep in mind that your provider may only ask you for more money if he observes the following:

  • Your provider must inform you of the new prices before they apply. He must do so at least a month in advance.
  • Your provider needs to inform you about the new prices and why they have increased comprehensibly and transparently.
  • Your provider must adhere to the price adjustment clause in your contract or their general terms and conditions (Geschäftsbedingungen). The price adjustment clause specifies the cases in which the landlord may increase the prices.
  • Your provider must inform you about your so-called "special right of termination" or "Sonderkündigungsrecht" which allows you to cancel your contract without observing the deadline specified in your contract.

Please note: Your provider may also ask whether you want to voluntarily increase your monthly advance payment. If you agree, your advance payments will increase. The landlord can only raise prices under certain conditions if you don't.

I cannot pay the raised advance payment for my heating. What can I do?

Deferral of advance payments

If your landlord increases your advance payment for heating costs, i.e. the amount you pay monthly for your heating, and you cannot pay the amount, talk to your landlord immediately. Ask whether you can pay the amount later. In German, this is called "Stundung" or deferring payments. Important: Even with a deferral, you still have to pay the entire amount.

If you pay your heating bills yourself (without state aid), ask your provider for a deferral immediately to see whether you can pay the amount later. Important: Even with a deferral, you still have to pay the full amount.

One-off assumption of debts by the Jobcenter or Social Welfare Office

If you cannot pay your heating bill, the Jobcenter or Social Welfare Office may take it over. For more information, see the section "I can't pay my electricity bill. What can I do?".

Important: Act immediately when you can no longer pay the costs. If you are unsure what to do, contact a counselling centre or the Consumer Advice Centre. You can find the relevant addresses in the section "Where can I find advice and support?".

 

 

Can I get help from the state because heating costs have increased?

The federal government offers various forms of aid for citizens within the so-called "relief packages" or "Entlastungspakets". So far (as of November 2022), there are three relief packages. Here, you will find an overview of the available programmes concerning gas and heating (as of November 2022).

Lower sales tax on gas

From October 1, 2022, to March 31, 2024, gas and district heating providers will have to pay lower taxes for gas and district heating to the state. The tax has decreased from 19 per cent to 7 per cent. Since the energy providers are supposed to pass these savings on to their customers, the energy prices, which are sharply rising, should reduce for the costumers somewhat. Please note: Even with a lower VAT, you still have to expect higher energy prices than in recent years.

 

"Heizkostenzuschuss" for recipients of housing benefit

As a recipient of housing benefits, you can receive the so-called "heating cost subsidy" or "Heizkostenzuschuss" from the state to cover your heating costs. There are currently (as of November 2022) two heating cost subsidies: heating cost subsidy I and heating cost subsidy II. Each of these subsidies are paid out only once. You do not have to apply and will automatically receive it in your account. You can learn more about the heating cost subsidy in our "Housing" chapter.

"Heizkostenzuschuss I"

You will receive the "heating cost subsidy I" if you have obtained housing benefits for at least one month between October 2021 and March 2022.

The amount of this subsidy depends on the number of people living together in a household as follows:

  • 1 person: €270
  • 2 persons: €350 
  • Each additional person: €70

Depending on the federal state where you live, you can expect the heating cost subsidy I in a different time (as of November 2022):

  • June 2022: Rhineland-Palatinate
  • July 2022: Bremen, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony
  • August 2022: Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein and Hesse
  • September 2022: Hamburg, Saarland and Saxony
  • October 2022: Baden-Württemberg
  • Not clear yet: Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia

"Heizkostenzuschuss II"

You will receive the heating cost subsidy II if you have benefitted from housing benefits for at least one month between September and December 2022.

The amount of the "Heizkostenzuschuss II" depends on the number of people in a household:

  • 1 person: €415
  • 2 persons: €540
  • Each additional person: €100

It is not yet (as of November 2022) clear exactly when the heating cost subsidy II will be paid out.

 

"Heizkostenzuschüss" for students

Students can also receive both heating cost subsidies (I & II) if they receive BAföG and no longer live with their parents. The heating cost subsidy I and II will be paid automatically, so you do not have to apply.

"Heizkostenzuschüss I"

You will be entitled to the heating cost subsidy I if you have received BAföG between October 2021 and March 2022 and no longer live with your parents. It amounts to a one-off payment of €230. Since the end of October 2022, the heating cost subsidy I has also been paid to trainees.

"Heizkostenzuschüss II"

You will receive the heating subsidy II if you have received BAföG between September 2022 and December 2022 and no longer live with your parents. It amounts to a one-off payment of €345. The heating subsidy II is expected to be transferred to the students at the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023.

 

"Heizkostenzuschüss" for trainees

Under certain circumstances, those going through vocational training can also receive the heating cost subsidy I and II. To be eligible, you must be entitled to the so-called "Aufstiegs-BAföG" with maintenance allowance ("Unterhaltszuschuss") or vocational training allowance ("Berufsausbildungsbeihilfe") or training allowance ("Ausbildungsgeld"). Then, the heating cost subsidy I and II will be paid to your account automatically, so you do not have to apply.

"Heizkostenzuschüss I"

You receive the heating cost subsidy I if you have received the so-called "Aufstiegs-BAföG" with maintenance allowance ("Unterhaltszuschuss") or vocational training allowance ("Berufsausbildungsbeihilfe") or training allowance ("Ausbildungsgeld") between October 2021 and March 2022. It amounts to a one-off payment of €230 and has been paid to trainees since the end of October 2022.

"Heizkostenzuschüss II"

You would receive the heating subsidy II if you received the so-called "Aufstiegs-BAföG" with maintenance allowance ("Unterhaltszuschuss") or vocational training allowance ("Berufsausbildungsbeihilfe") or training allowance ("Ausbildungsgeld") between September 2022 and December 2022. It will amount to a one-time fee of €345 and is expected to be transferred to the trainees at the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023.

 

Inspection of gas heaters

From October 1, 2022, homeowners must have the gas heating in their homes checked. They have 2 years to do so – and the examination must be carried out by professionals. The inspection aims to determine how well the gas heater is working. For example, the specialists might adjust outdated settings on the heating system. The owners must bear the costs for the inspection, but if deficiencies are found during the inspection, the owners do not have to fix them. It is currently (as of October 2022) unclear whether the landlords can pass on the costs to the tenants.

Rent

I can no longer pay my rent. What do I do now?

If you're having trouble paying your rent because of the increased prices, talk to your landlord as soon as possible and explain the situation to them. They may be able to arrange payment in instalments, i.e. you only pay part of your rent each month and the rest later when you have enough money.

Important: Be sure to talk to your landlord. If you do not pay rent for more than 2 months, your landlord can give you an eviction notice.

If you have any questions, contact a tenant association in your area. You may need to sign up for a paid membership to benefit from their counselling. You can find their offices' addresses on the German Tenants' Association website. Or you can contact the Tenants' Protection Association. You will find more information on their counselling service on the website of the Tenants' Protection Association e.V. Most of their employees only speak German. You can also contact a counselling – find the contact information in the "Where can I find advice and support?" section. 

Can I get help from the state to pay my rent?

You can get help from the state if you are having trouble paying your rent. Currently (as of October 2022), these support options are available:

Housing benefit ("Wohngeld")

The housing benefit is a subsidy towards your rent. The money usually goes to people who cannot pay their rent due to low income. Therefore, people do not receive housing benefits when the state pays their rent. That's why the recipients of unemployment benefit II (Hartz IV), BAföG, basic sustenance security ("Grundsicherung") or benefits for reduced earning capacity ("Erwerbsminderung") are not entitled to housing benefits.

Currently (as of November 2022), these people are entitled to housing benefits:

  • People who don't earn much money and have been paying their entire rent themselves.
  • Pensioners
  • Students who cannot receive BAföG and do not live with their parents
  • Trainees who cannot receive vocational training allowance and do not live with their parents
  • Recipients of unemployment benefit I
  • Recipients of short-time work benefits

The amount of your housing benefits depends on the number of people who live with you, your salary and rent. You can use the housing benefit calculator (Wohngeldrechner) from the Federal Ministry for Building and Housing website to calculate the approximate amount. If you are unsure whether you can receive housing benefits, apply anyway. A refusal will not have any disadvantages for you.

You can apply for housing benefits at the responsible office in your place of residence – that is usually the so-called "Wohngeldstelle" where you can fill out an application for housing benefits. You can find the appropriate office in your area by searching online: Enter the words "Wohngeldstelle" and the name of your city/town in the search box. You can find the applications for each federal state on wohngeld.org. Submit your application as early as possible. Because it often takes several weeks before you receive money. You can learn more about housing benefits in our "Housing" chapter.

Please note: If you receive benefits under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act, you can only receive housing benefits in exceptional cases.

 

Support for families

I have children – What types of support are there for families?

If you have children, you are entitled to various financial aids:

Child support ("Kindergeld")

Parents receive child benefits from the state as a subsidy for childcare expenses. The amount differs depending on how many children you have – currently (as of October 2022), you get €219 per month for one child. You can learn more about child benefits in our "Child benefit" chapter.

Child bonus ("Kinderbonus")

Due to rising energy prices, parents receive a one-time fee of €100 per child. The prerequisite is that you have received child benefits at least once in 2022. You do not need to fill out any extra application. The child bonus payment started in July 2022. By the end of 2022, all those entitled should have received the bonus. If you have not received it, contact the proper Family Benefits Office immediately. This is the office responsible for the payment of your child benefits.

The child bonus is not taken into account when calculating Hartz IV or social assistance, housing benefits, child benefits and the advance maintenance payment. You will keep the total amount of €100 without any other benefits deductions.

Child supplement ("Kinderzuschlag")

The child supplement (KiZ) is given to parents who earn enough for themselves but whose income is not or is only just enough for the family. You can currently receive a maximum of €209 per month per child. The amount of your child allowance depends on your life situation. You can learn more about "Kinderzuschlag" in our "Child benefit" chapter.

Immediate child supplement ("Kindersofortzuschlag")

Since July 2022, recipients of social benefits have received an additional child allowance of €20 per child.

Your child will receive the immediate child supplement if they are entitled to:

  • Benefits from the 2nd or 12th Social Security Code OR
  • Benefits from the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act OR
  • the child supplement ("Kinderzuschlag") OR
  • the supplementary benefits for subsistence under the Federal Supply Act.

The authority from which you receive the benefit will pay you the immediate child supplement directly. So you do not have to submit any extra applications.

My children go to school or study or do vocational training. What form of aid is available?

Education and Participation Package 

With the education and participation package, you can get financial aid so that your child can participate in the following activities:

  • Certain school and leisure activities
  • Lunch service at school or after-school care if it is offered at your child's school
  • Tutoring or membership in sports and music clubs

You must apply for the benefits. You can learn more about the education and participation package in our chapter "Educational Package".

 

BAföG

If you or your parents do not earn much, and you are not in Germany on a student visa, under certain circumstances, you can apply for state funding under the Federal Education Funding Act (BAföG). Then you can receive financial aid from the state as a student. You can learn more about BAföG in our "BAföG" chapter.

 

Where can I find advice and support?

Counselling Centres

You can ask a Migration Counselling Centre (Migrationsberatungsstelle) or a Youth Migration Service (Jugendmigrationsdienst) in your area for support. The Youth Migration Service are specifically responsible for people under the age of 27. The staff in both counselling centres speak different languages, and their service is free. They can also help you fill out applications and forms. 
If you cannot find a counselling centre nearby, you can visit our community platform, "Together in Germany" online. We will help you free of charge in many languages ​​with information and addresses of counselling centres.
If you have questions about your electricity or heating bill, contact the Consumer Advice Centre. You can find an office nearby at verbraucherzentrale.de.

If you have issues with your landlord or questions about your rights as a tenant, you can seek advice from a tenant protection association or tenant association. These associations usually require you to become a member and pay an annual membership fee (approx. €50), but in return, you will receive comprehensive advice and legal assistance. On mieterbund.de, you will find a tenant protection association in your area.

Important

If your salary is barely enough to care for yourself and your family, you can apply to the Jobcenter for financial aid. You can learn more in our "Jobcenter" chapter.

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