Berlin (dpa) – You should not hesitate for long in the crisis, says Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz, this applies after the flood disaster just as with the start of the corona pandemic.
Aid must come first – “and not principles,” the SPD politician said in Berlin on Wednesday. A week after the devastating flood that killed at least 170, the federal government is therefore releasing millions for emergency aid intended to quickly support the people in the disaster area with the basic necessities. But some practical questions also remain open.
Scholz foresees a financial need of 400 million euros for the rapid aid – half from the federal budget, the other from the affected countries. At the same time, the Minister of Finance promises that more money can be made available if necessary. “We will do whatever it takes to help everyone as quickly as possible,” Scholz said after the cabinet decision. He calculated billions in financial needs for the reconstruction.
Scholz wants to double national support
Even emergency aid will likely be higher than the federal government now plans. Because Scholz has promised the countries to double their own aid from his pot. “We fund half each time. So it will be any size,” he says. According to Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU), only North Rhine-Westphalia will provide 200 million euros in state aid. With that, the 200 million from the federal government would already be planned. But Rhineland-Palatinate has also decided to provide emergency aid up to EUR 3500 per household. Bavaria wants to make 50 million euros available for flood victims. The federal government therefore has to dig deeper into its pockets.
“The aid will not fail because of the money,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) promised. “The emergency aid is mainly a support for people who have lost all their possessions.” The money should arrive quickly and without “major income or wealth checks.” “People pay taxes for that, so that they can be helped in unusual situations.” But how people get their money remains unclear – it is up to the states to organize the transfers. Scholz believes that everyone will find the fastest route for themselves.
Billion dollar building fund planned
At the same time, it is clear that even multimillion-dollar emergency aid will not be enough to restore flooded sites, torn bridges and collapsed houses. In the longer term, there should be a multi-billion dollar building fund. The exact amount should only be determined when the extent of the damage is more readily apparent.
Scholz points out that after the flood disaster in 2013, some six billion euros have been spent on reconstruction so far. This time, too, the federal government will take over half of the development fund. He said so so that construction could begin right away. “It will cost billions and it will take several years. But we are ready to do this together with the countries and move forward. Everyone can rely on it now.”
Is flood insurance mandatory?
Shops, businesses, residential buildings, livelihoods, all of this must and must be rebuilt in the flood plains with state aid. Have many homeowners invested in flood insurance for free for years? Seehofer and Scholz make it clear that state aid is in any case not linked to such insurance. “I’m advocating not to be cynical and heartless,” Scholz said enthusiastically. Now it’s about helping. “If someone is affected by such an event, he cannot do anything about it. We cannot leave them alone.”
In the future, however, the insurance issue will certainly also be discussed, such as whether insurance against flood damage can be made compulsory. The federal government expects natural disasters such as floods to become more frequent given climate change. That’s why there needs to be a broad discussion about a “future security system,” Seehofer says. According to Scholz, the federal government wants to advise the states on setting up a permanent relief fund for natural disasters.
First Corona, now flood
Many small entrepreneurs who have suffered from the Corona crisis in recent months are also affected by the current flooding. Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) announces “Means to bridge sales gaps”. First Corona, then the flood, which caused both personal suffering and the destruction of much livelihood. According to Scholz, it is being considered to expand the hardship fund, which was decided in the corona crisis, to 1.5 billion euros to help companies affected by the flood disaster. SPD party chairman Achim Post speaks of exempting affected companies from the insolvency obligation to give vent and protect jobs.
The federal government is also helping the municipalities: it does not want to pay for the flooding operations of the Technical Assistance Organization (THW), the federal police and the armed forces. “That is a clear help for the municipalities,” says Seehofer.
The aid decided by the black-and-red federal government is generally well received by the opposition. However, it could only be a first measure, emphasizes Katrin Göring-Eckardt, leader of the Greens. “Now, during implementation, care must be taken to ensure that aid reaches the people on the ground immediately, quickly and without complications who have been hit hard by this extreme weather catastrophe.” The FDP finance politician Otto Fricke demands that the election campaign and the summer holidays do not play a role. “We must solve the problems for this country and those affected together.”