COVID-19 forced Germany to adapt to a new reality as it heavily impacted poverty, unemployment and inequality rates. NGO coalitions are supporting Germany during COVID-19 by providing relief sources for vulnerable individuals and children. On December 16, 2020, Germany initiated a COVID-19 lockdown that received an extension until March 7 to keep citizens safe from new COVID-19 variants. As Germany had suffered approximately 3.4 million cases and 3.1 million recoveries by May 5, 2021, the country has needed to adapt to a new reality during 2020. Government and NGO support formed the backbone for this transition.
Caritas Germany Association
Caritas Germany is a Catholic Welfare Charity Association that pioneered Catholic charity work in Germany since 1897. Recently, the association integrated safe volunteering methods while maintaining services in Caritas hospitals, elderly care facilities and other centers. It even created online services to train people as online counselors as part of a COVID-19 strategy to support Germany.
Approximately 693,082 people work with the association to support 13 million beneficiaries. To maintain contact with everyone during COVID-19, Caritas Germany utilized the Youngcaritas volunteer platform to teach people how to use digital devices through remote tutorials. Caritas Germany’s Press Spokeswoman, Mathilde Langendorf, talked with The Borgen Project. She explained that “our big aim is that no one falls through, that we continue to be able to reach out to people.”
Caritas’ counseling services received an “enormous boost from the pandemic,” making its aim even more crucial. The coalition trained thousands in counseling online during the first year of COVID-19. Langendorf described how 3,000 new people sought help every month on Caritas Germany’s online counseling platform in 2020. The platform even initiated two new counseling topics, regarding young adults and migration, in addition to the 15 already available.
In December 2020, Caritas Germany received 750,000 euros from the Generali insurance company. Langendorf told The Borgen Project that the funds will go toward approximately “21 [COVID-19] projects in 12 locations.” The projects range from training people to use digital tools to help families cope with the challenges of homeschooling.
The Association for Development Aid and Humanitarian Aid (VENRO)
The VENRO Germany coalition represents and advocates for the interests of 140 NGOs while strengthening NGO engagement in the field of development cooperation and humanitarian aid. VENRO’s 2017 to 2022 strategy focuses on protecting human rights, reducing poverty and conserving natural resources. Managing Director, Heike Spielmans, told The Borgen Project that VENRO Germany’s members include “almost all major German NGOs in this field.”
The coalition advocated for decreasing the value of government grants that NGOs have to match with their own funds from 25% to 10%. Spielman’s described how the coalition anticipates progress in a campaign “focused on a supply chain law to make companies take responsibility for their production and sourcing overseas with regard to human rights and environmental protection” before national elections in September 2021.
Government Policies Supporting Germany During COVID-19
A 2017 project authorized by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) was still in progress when COVID-19 hit. The project seeks to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 10 from the UN Agenda 2030, where no one is left behind. To continue this work, authorities implemented tax and unemployment schemes for vulnerable populations as companies reduced hours and even closed. Germany passed a bill in March 2020 prohibiting landlords from terminating leases or evicting tenants for unpaid rent. The bill also provides rent extensions until June 30, 2022.
On February 12, 2021, Germany’s Federal Government expanded the Bridging Aid II into the Bridging Aid III and Restart Help application portal for companies of all sizes to provide a restart grant of up to 7,500 euros until June 30, 2021. Businesses and self-employed individuals can apply for monthly assistance of up to 1.5 million euros.
Beyond the in-country support, Germany’s government also increased its 2020 humanitarian assistance in Venezuela in a virtual donor conference in May 2020. It promises to increase its contributions by 4 million euros, bringing the total to over 50 million. Germany also seeks to aid refugees. As its refugee cap decreased from 5,500 to 1,178 refugees in 2020, Germany is working to migrate the remaining refugees in 2021.
A Look Ahead
Germany’s government and NGOs stepped up to support Germany during COVID-19’s debilitating effects. Yet another example is how the German Parity Welfare Association, which represents 10,000 NGO organizations, transferred member seminars and workshops online to introduce NGO members to topics ranging from protecting child rights to digitizing work processes during COVID-19. Another NGO, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Germany, is helping German NGOs acquire laptops for beneficiary employment support, PPE and vaccinations. With so many organizations willing to help those in need, Germany can be optimistic about its future.
– Evan Winslow