Dominik Nepp, non-acting Vice Mayor of Vienna and head of the city’s far-right Freedom Party, stated in a speech that “not a single cent” of public funds meant to support Austrian small businesses during the Covid-19-outbreak had reached them as of May 1st. This statement is false.
Labour Day, May 1st, in Vienna. Austrian politicians traditionally give speeches to celebrate the achievements of the working class. On this public holiday in Austria the town hall square in the capital Vienna usually fills up with supporters of the social democratic party. Not this year.
The Covid-19-outbreak has led to a nation-wide ban on gatherings of more than ten people. So, Dominik Nepp, head of Vienna’s far-right Freedom Party and a vocal opponent of the social democratic party decided to step up and record his labour day speech from an empty town hall square (see full speech transcript).
Nepp criticized the federal government’s response to the Covid-19-outbreak, arguing that “the payment of state funds was delegated to the Austrian Economic Chambers (WKO)” and that […] “to this day, not a single cent has arrived.” We tried to contact Mr. Nepp to ask him on what funds he exactly meant as well as the source of his claim.
We were unable to speak to him directly, but got a hold of Lukas Brucker, a spokesperson of the Freedom Party.
Brucker confirmed that the funds mentioned in the speech referred to the so-called “hardship case fund” (in German: “Härtefall-Fonds”); a federal government subsidy intended to help the self-employed covering their cost of living during this time of crisis. Mr. Brucker further stated: “We have the information from many businesses that they have not received anything up to this day.”
However, a Vienna-based entrepreneur confirmed that he had applied and received around 1.000 Euro out of this fund before May 1st. We decided to further check this claim by asking those in charge of paying out the fund: the Austrian Economic Chambers, in short WKO, an organization representing the interests of Austria’s entrepreneurs.
Markus Kirchschlager, spokesperson of the WKO’s general secretary, explained that the Härtefall-Fonds is paid out in different phases, the first of which had been completed as of April 16th. In this first phase, a total of 121 million Euro had already been paid out.
To conclude, Dominik Nepp’s claim that until May 1st “no cent has arrived” is clearly false. Instead, at least 121 million Euro were paid out to help entrepreneurs and small business across Austria to cover their cost of living during the fallout of the Covid-19-outbreak.