Berlin didn't want to wait any longer: Since Tuesday, owners of an oil or wood pellet heating system in the capital have been able to apply for help from a hardship fund.

Anyone who had at least 70 percent higher costs for their heating material in the past year than in the previous year will receive up to 2,000 euros from the state.

In contrast, the federal government's hardship fund for users of "non-connected fuels", announced in mid-December, is a long time coming.

Julia Loehr

Business correspondent in Berlin.

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The traffic light parties had announced 1.8 billion euros for the latter.

But little has happened since then, also because no ministry at the federal level wanted to take over the implementation.

It is now clear that after the corona aid and the relief for gas, district heating and electricity customers, the Ministry of Economics will also take care of the hardship aid - not only for companies, but also for private households.

The administrative agreement between the federal government and the states will be "completed in the coming weeks," said a spokesman on request.

About every fourth apartment in Germany is heated with oil, that's around 10.4 million.

In addition, there are 3.5 million homes with wood or coal heating.

The key points from December stipulated that private households should receive support if the costs for heating material have more than doubled in 2022 compared to the previous year.

Mechanism works like the gas price brake

State price brakes for gas, district heating and electricity are designed in a similar way.

The federal government wants to take over 80 percent of the sum, which exceeds twice the previous costs.

It was still unclear how the starting price would be defined - whether the individual invoice counted or a reference price from the Federal Statistical Office.

The state of Berlin has set the reference price for heating oil at EUR 0.71 per liter including VAT for its aid program.

Anyone who has filled their tank for more than 1.21 euros per liter, 1.7 times the initial value, can therefore submit an application.

The reference price for pellets is EUR 0.24 per kilogram and EUR 0.10 for coal.

75 million euros from the state budget are available.

According to the Senate Department for Economic Affairs, there are around 330,000 households in Berlin that heat with one of these energy sources.

Most of them, 320,000 households, use oil.

How many of them actually had more than 70 percent higher costs is not known.

Basically, the following applies: Only those who have paid the bill from the energy supplier can apply for the subsidy from the Investitionsbank Berlin.

In apartment buildings, the credit is passed on to the owners or tenants via the utility bill.

State of Berlin demands quick relief for the citizens

"Berlin did its homework quickly," says Berlin's independent Senator for Economics, Stephan Schwarz.

"Now it's up to the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology to finally end the impasse over the 1.8 billion euros decided in December and to quickly start coordination with the federal states." .

The supplementary budget had already been approved in November.

By Tuesday afternoon, the investment bank had received 269 applications.

In Berlin, tradespeople with oil or pellet heating can also receive a subsidy.

It will be different in the federal hardship fund.

According to the spokesman for Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), only private households and housing companies can submit applications for this.

There will be hardship aid for companies, for which the budget committee of the Bundestag has released a first tranche of 375 million euros from the economic stabilization fund.

At the same time, however, the budget committee has asked the federal government to limit hardship aid for companies to gas, district heating and electricity.

The regulation should not be extended to heating oil and pellets, according to the decision, which is available to the FAZ.

This was not well received by craft president Jörg Dittrich.

"The budget committee is torpedoing the consensus decision of the federal and state governments in December," he said.

On Tuesday, Bavaria's Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger (free voters), currently Chairman of the Conference of State Economics Ministers, wrote to the Budget Committee: "It is difficult to convey to companies that they are worse off than private consumers." A correction is urgently needed.