Berliners who are unable to pay their electricity or gas bills against the backdrop of significantly increased energy costs will have the opportunity to apply for them from Monday (January 9). This was announced by Social Senator Katja Kipping (Left Party) on Tuesday. Applications are only possible online. This should speed up processing, so that electricity or gas blocks can be lifted quickly or avoided in time.
Hardship fund against energy debt: online applications start Jan. 9
In the event of imminent electricity or gas blockages, financial assistance is available in Berlin this year from a hardship fund created specifically for this purpose.
group of people eligible to apply comprises 85 percent of Berlin's population
The aim is to create social security, avoid spiraling debt, prevent energy cut-offs and relieve people of the fear of having to sit in the dark or cold, Kipping said. The group of those eligible to apply was deliberately broadly defined by the Senate, she said. It's not just about the very poorest, she said, but also about middle-income households - that is, about 85 percent of Berlin's population. "That means the limit is an income above 2.8 times the classic housing entitlement," Kipping explained. "For a single household, that means 33,600 euros in annual income; for a single parent with a child, 46,480."
Aid can be applied for only once
Among other things, applicants must submit proof of income for the previous three months and provide information on annual gross household income. "We deliberately refrained from doing an asset test," Kipping said. "Wealth verification is really, really costly. And that would only have been possible if we had said this all goes to the social welfare offices." Berlin households can also apply for help from the Energy Debt Hardship Fund only once at a time. The prerequisite is a blocking notice from the energy provider dating back to 2023. The State Office for Health and Social Affairs (Lageso) is responsible for processing the applications. This will relieve the burden on job centers and social welfare offices, Kipping said. A separate unit with 15 positions has been set up at the Lageso.
Number of applications not predictable
It is not possible to predict the number of applications, Kipping said. "There is no one in the entire federal government who can say for sure how reliably the caps will work." In 2021, she said, there were about 11,000 cases of electricity disconnections and 1700 for gas across Berlin - whether that order of magnitude remains realistic after the significant increase in energy costs is an open question.
20 million euros for the Energy Debt Hardship Fund
In "an internal allocation", the Senate had budgeted 20 million euros for the Energy Debt Hardship Fund as part of the Berlin relief package. However, the different items of the relief package are mutually coverable. This means that if more is needed for one and less for the other, it can be arranged. "Of course, we know that there are people who are not so digitally savvy," Kipping admitted. For social counselors, she said, there was already appropriate digital training before Christmas so they could help when needed. The digital application form is to be activated on Monday.