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MONEY

‘I’m still waiting’: Foreigners in Austria still not been paid Klimabonus handout

Millions of residents in Austria were sent €500 one-off payment by the state to help them deal with the increasing cost of living. But many people (especially foreigners) who were entitled still haven't received their money.

'I'm still waiting': Foreigners in Austria still not been paid Klimabonus handout
Payments for the Climate Bonus are now complete, but round two will start in February 2023. (The Local)

The Klimabonus, a €500 one-off payment sent out by the Austrian government to (almost) everyone who lives in the country to help cushion inflation costs, has been a heated topic since it was first announced.

So far, more than 7.4 million people have received the bonus via a bank transfer, while more than 1.2 million got vouchers that could be redeemed in stores or for cash, according to the Climate Ministry. 

Anyone who has lived in Austria for at least 183 days during the year 2022 is entitled to the 2022 payment. People who only fulfilled the requirement in the second half of 2022 (newborn babies and recently relocated residents) will receive the total 2022 Klimabonus amount in the second wave of payments set for February 2023.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is travelling to Austria this winter worth it?

However, many who have already fulfilled the criteria in the first semester are still waiting for their payments. One reader who asked not to be identified said: “I have lived in Vienna for over three years. I have a rental apartment, health insurance, and accurate financial information on FinanzOnline. I also have a Handy Signatur and a bank account at BAWAG PSK.”

“But I never received my Klimabonus or a voucher.” 

Igor Zuljic, a Croatian national who has lived in Austria for more than 30 years, is also still waiting to receive his payment. 

“I have been doing my Steuerausgleich every year. So they have my details and my bank account. I received money before from the Finanzministerium“, said the 37-year-old.

“I think it was just a huge administrative task that they just couldn’t perform because it was too massive”, he said.

Lack of transparency

The government said that some groups of EU citizens or third-country nationals were affected by “some problems with the automated entitlement check by the Ministry of the Interior”.

“​​Every effort is being taken to find a solution, please bear with us. You will receive your payment for 2022 in the second wave of payments starting February 2023)”, the authorities said.

The exact number of people affected is unclear, and the Ministry hasn’t replied to Austrian media asking the reasons for the delays, what exactly is being checked or whether there is a connection with the countries of origin. 

READ ALSO: Klimabonus: Payments complete for the Austria-wide scheme

Broadcaster ORF estimates that as many as 300,000 people could be affected. 

As the government said that around 400,000 people would receive a payment in February, the website removed the estimated number of people who moved to or were born in Austria in the first half of the year, about 100,000, to reach the 300,000 estimate.

A hard-to-reach hotline

The reader that reached out said she tried calling the hotline, but they would not talk to her as she doesn’t speak German.

“They said in English that they would only talk to me in German”, she said. Her husband got his Klimabonus via voucher early on, she added. 

READ ALSO: Klimabonus in Austria: What to do if you miss the pickup deadline for your voucher

According to the daily Der Standard, there are currently 140,000 “open tickets” in the Klimabonus “service centre” – though there could be double reports, so the number doesn’t necessarily equate to the number of people affected. 

The website reported cases of people finding the hotline often unavailable, not getting promised callbacks or simply being hung up on complicated questions.

The Ministry stated that the employees of the Klimabonus hotline receive regular training and that “various quality assurance processes” are in place.

What is the Klimabonus?

With rising inflation, mainly due to the increasing energy costs, people in Austria have seen their salaries purchasing less and less. Because of that, the federal government announced a €6 billion package with assistance, tax cuts and one-off payments.

The main (and somewhat controversial) payment is the so-called “climate bonus and anti-inflation payment”, better known as Klimabonus in Austria. Residents of the country will receive €500 to help cushion the effects of climbing prices. Minors are entitled to half that amount.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Austria’s new finance measures could benefit you

The only criterion is that the recipient must have lived in Austria for at least 181 days in 2022 to be eligible for the payment. Your nationality or employment status doesn’t matter – if you have spent six months legally in 2022 in the country, you will get the money.

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MONEY

EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Austria

With inflation hitting double digits, consumers in Austria are really feeling the pinch, particularly in the supermarket. Here are some simple tips on how you can save money on your grocery shopping.

EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Austria

1. Buy seasonal products

Fruit and vegetables are less expensive when they are in season in Austria, as they don’t have to be kept in cold storage which – thanks to high energy prices – incurs high costs which are passed onto the customer. So going for produce that is naturally abundant at the time of year can really pay off. 

At the moment, vegetables such as kale, squashes, leaks and cabbages are currently in season, but you can refer to an online Saisonkalendar (season calendar), such as this German one, to keep an eye on which fruits and veggies are in season at different times of the year.

Lots of vegetables.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

2. Go easy on butter 

The price of butter in Austria has increased by over 40 percent in the last year – in some cases, a 250-gram packet of butter now costs €3. 

READ ALSO: Cost of living: Inflation hits cheapest groceries in Austria’s supermarkets

As a substitute for butter in cooking, go for vegetable oils such as olive oil, linseed or soybean oil or certain types of margarine and, for spreadable treats, consider alternatives such as quark or cheese spreads. 

3. Have a meal plan and a shopping list

One golden rule for saving money in the supermarket – wherever you live – is to plan your meals and write down the ingredients in a list. Having a shopping list often helps avoid expensive spontaneous purchases and helps you to really only buy the things you will definitely use.

4. Buy less meat

The prices of meat products, such as sausages and fish have also risen by 15.6 percent since last October. Possible replacements for some of their meat products with plant-based foods, pulses or legumes instead, such as lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, and soybeans.

READ ALSO: Why everything in Austria is closed on Sundays – and what to do instead

5. Visit markets

Another advice is to visit local fruit and vegetable markets, as fresh produce can often go for a lot cheaper than in the supermarkets.

6. Compare prices by weight 

Another essential tip for buying groceries on the cheap is to compare prices by weight, not simply by the retail price on display. In addition to the retail price, you will usually see how much 100 grams of each product costs and you should use this number as a basis for comparison.

For example, if you want to buy Parmesan cheese and there are two different varieties marked at €4 and €6, the €4 package may seem cheaper. But if you then look at the price by weight, you may find that the €6 Parmesan comes to €1 per 100 grams, while the €4 package comes to €2 per 100 grams.

(Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP)

7. Use apps to find deals 

The price for the same product can sometimes vary greatly between supermarkets in Austria, so it can pay to shop around.

But, if you don’t have time to go from store to store hunting down the cheapest products, many supermarket brands have their own apps which you can use to check for price comparisons and any discounts or offers.

Another great app for those looking to make serious savings on their foodstuffs is Too Good to Go – an app which connects people to local restaurants, bakeries and food shops which are looking to get rid of surplus food. 

8. Get an advantage card

With an advantage card such as JÖ or store brands, you can collect points every time you shop in a variety of stores, and then ultimately transform these points into monetary discounts. 

These cards are free to get and just require registration. Using them regularly, along with extra point-collecting coupons, can amount to quite a savings. 

9. Check out the bottom shelf

The bottom shelves in Austrian supermarkets are often where you will find the most economically-priced products, including the supermarkets’ own-brand products. You can often get almost the identical product as the branded variety for half the price. 

10. Shopping just before closing time

If you shop just before closing time, you can often find great deals in Austrian supermarkets – especially at the vegetable, fruit, meat and yoghurt counters. Just don’t take too long: they won’t stay open longer for you.

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