Left alone. This is what many people affected by the floods still feel. Two and a half weeks after the floods destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of people, the billion dollar aid promised by federal and state governments has not yet arrived where it is needed. Armin Laschet has already felt the frustration of those who are still waiting. When the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia and candidate for Union Chancellor visited Odendorf, which was badly damaged by the floods, a man complained that he had seen no government support state or local government. Instead, the young people would have helped clean up. Another victim complained of “huge failures” and threatened – also from Laschet’s side: “You will notice it by voting”.
Why has the money not yet arrived everywhere and how much immediate help is available for those affected?
Politicians had already announced emergency aid a week after the floods, and disbursement began in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate a few days ago. The number of people affected is in the thousands, it takes time for help to reach everywhere.
Currently, at least € 600 million in emergency aid is available. The federal government initially pledged around 200 million to those affected, and another at least 200 million to affected countries. A few days after the first decision, North Rhine-Westphalia announced that it would again increase the pledged amounts if necessary. On Friday, the federal government finally announced that it would contribute around 400 million euros in emergency aid instead of the 200 million euros initially promised.
How much money has been paid so far?
According to information from Laschet, 215 million euros in emergency aid have been disbursed to date in North Rhine-Westphalia alone. 140 million of them went to citizens, 10 million to businesses and 65 million to municipalities. In the Ahrweiler district in Rhineland-Palatinate, around 6,500 requests for emergency assistance have been lodged to date. A spokeswoman for the district administration said aid of more than 2.6 million euros had been disbursed so far.
Is emergency aid sufficient to cover all damage?
First aid from federal and state governments is far from sufficient to cover all costs incurred as a result of the flooding. According to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, businesses in the Ahr Valley alone have suffered damages amounting to around 560 million euros. So far, no one knows how much money will be needed in all of the affected areas. Laschet expects the corresponding estimate to be completed by August 10 at the latest. Then, a reconstruction fund should be set up as soon as possible.
How is the stimulus fund going?
According to Laschet’s will, this is to be regulated by federal law. “This means that everyone who expects money is reliably assured that this money will come,” said the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia. The decision on the reconstruction fund is to be taken by the Prime Minister’s Conference on August 10, by which time the damage estimate is to be completed. The federal government could then prepare the law – in the same way it was tested a few years ago during the floods in East Germany. It is “conceivable” that the Bundestag will adopt this law on September 7 and that the Bundesrat then votes on it in extraordinary session.
Olaf Scholz also confirmed that removing flood damage is a federal matter. During a visit to Stolberg, which has been severely affected by the floods, the Federal Minister of Finance said: “We are experiencing a disaster of national dimensions. It is therefore important that the answer to this question be a common national answer. Countries in which the floods caused no destruction are also responsible. Fortunately, they have already indicated their willingness to provide financial support.
What are the sums at stake?
The reconstruction fund, which was created after the catastrophic floods in East Germany in 2013, had a volume of eight billion euros and was funded equally by the federal and Länder governments. Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD) assumes that such a sum will not be enough this time around. Federal Finance Minister Scholz made a similar statement.
Is further help planned?
Yes. Scholz has already made it clear that a solidarity fund for businesses decided during the Corona crisis can be expanded so that the resulting money can also benefit businesses affected by the floods.
Laschet also advocates special regulation of the bankruptcy code in favor of flood victims. Anyone who lost their short-term solvency because of the storm shouldn’t have to go to the bankruptcy judge. The obligation to declare bankruptcy should be suspended “until the immediate urgency is overcome”, said the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia. He wants to get a corresponding regulation from the federal government. In addition, Laschet promised municipalities affected by the floods that the planned reconstruction fund would cover the costs of waste disposal.
Additional assistance is provided through donations. However, this is non-state aid. Diakonie and Caritas, for example, have been paying money to flood victims in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia for several days. According to research by the Catholic News Agency, more than 200 million euros in donations have so far been received for those affected by the flood disaster. Many charities and Christian aid organizations had collected the money.