SOUTHINGTON, Connecticut — Since March 2020, Germany has adapted to a new reality where poverty, unemployment and inequality rates have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 23, 2021, Germany initiated another COVID-19 lockdown that was extended until April 18, 2021, at the earliest to keep citizens safe from new COVID-19 variants. Cases in the country have reached approximately 3,738,843, which includes active and closed cases, as of July 6, 2021. However, even with these disheartening statistics, the good news is that organization coalitions ranging from VENRO to Caritas Germany support vulnerable individuals and children by providing COVID-19 relief services as part of an overall strategy to support Germany.
German Caritas Association
Caritas Germany is a Catholic welfare association that has established charity projects in Germany since 1897. The association has worked to maintain service in Caritas hospitals, elderly care facilities and other centers. It has integrated safe volunteering methods and trained people as online counselors at the same time. While approximately 693,082 people work with the association in 25,064 facilities, Caritas Germany also utilizes the Youngcaritas volunteer platform to teach people how to use digital devices through remote tutorials. The organization has taken measures to adjust to the pandemic, transitioning the refugee mentoring program to phone conversations to follow social distancing guidelines. Caritas Germany Press Spokeswoman Mathilde Langendorf told The Borgen Project that “our big aim is that no one falls through” and “that we continue to be able to reach out to people” during the pandemic through Caritas online counseling and other facility services.
Addressing Poverty in Germany During COVID-19
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ, in German) authorized a global poverty reduction and inequality project to help achieve the first and tenth Sustainable Development Goals from the 2030 U.N. Agenda from 2017 to 2020. Tax and unemployment schemes for vulnerable populations have been implemented as companies have seen reduced hours and closures during recent months. The Federal Government of Germany published a COVID-19 bill prohibiting landlords from terminating leases or evicting tenants for not paying rent starting in April 2020 and providing rent extensions until June 30, 2022.
Yet another organization with a part in the strategy to support Germany, the German Parity Welfare Association, represents more than 9,000 organizations that support refugee aid, elderly care facilities and other services with a focus on equal opportunity by establishing social movements and welfare access across Germany. The association has transferred organization member seminars and workshops online to introduce organizations to topics including psychosocial online counseling courses and refugee support seminars. Langendorf told The Borgen Project how Caritas Germany received a Generali insurance donation of 750,000 euros to support 21 COVID-19 programs ranging from digital tool training for various age groups to a project helping families with homeschooling challenges in 12 areas near Generali offices.
VENRO and The International Rescue Committee
The Association for Development Policy and Humanitarian Aid of German NGOs, or VENRO in German, VENRO Germany coalition represents and currently advocates for the interests of 140 NGOs to strengthen engagement for NGOs within the fields of development, cooperation and humanitarian aid during the pandemic. VENRO focuses on protecting human rights, reducing poverty and conserving natural resources from 2017 until 2022. VENRO Germany Managing Director Heike Spielmans informed The Borgen Project that the coalition advocated for the government to decrease the amount NGOs have to match government grants in regards to funds from 25% to 10% of the entire budget. Spielmans added that VENRO anticipates progress in a “campaign focused on a supply chain law to make companies take responsibility for production and sourcing overseas in regard to human rights and environmental protection” before the September 2021 National Elections in Germany.
As the number of asylum seekers accepted in Germany was lowered from 5,500 to 1,178 in 2020, Germany is working to accept the remaining refugees from the 2020 quota in 2021. Incoming refugees in Germany were supported by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Germany as the committee helped NGO organizations acquire laptops for beneficiary employment support. The IRC also connected an organization partner with refugees to supply PPE and vaccinations.
A Look Ahead
Langendorf explained how Caritas Germany has had 3,000 new beneficiaries looking to register on the Caritas online counseling platform every month since early 2020. The Caritas Germany counseling platform initiated two new counseling topics regarding young adults and migration to add to the 15 established counseling topics online. The German federal government introduced the Restart Help application portal for self-employed individuals on February 12, 2021. The application provides a restart grant of up to 7,500 euros from January 1 to June 30, 2021, until the extended October 31, 2021, application deadline. The Restart Help and Bridging Aid III applications were implemented to provide further funding to businesses or self-employed individuals after the Bridging Aid II covered September to December 2020 funding until the March 31, 2021, application deadline.
In March 2021, VENRO began to advocate for the 2022 BMZ Germany budget to stand at the 2021 level of $12.43 billion euros or higher. The German government and NGOs are initiating programs to keep vulnerable populations safe mentally and financially during the COVID-19 pandemic while extending program application deadlines in 2021. Hopefully, with these new programs and initiatives in place in the strategy to support Germany, the nation can successfully fight COVID-19 with the help of several organizations.
– Evan Winslow