Disabled activists sit in at the Knesset plenum discussing goverment allowances for the disabled, September 18, 2017..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Tuesday approved a bill to increase disability allotments.
This, following months-long delays which saw disputes between disability groups, the Labor and Social Services Ministry and the Finance Ministry over formulating the legislation.
The bill, initiated by Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz, aims to increase disability allotments by NIS 4.241 billion, which includes: Anchoring four payments into law and linking the allotments to the average wage in the economy as well as providing supplements for the disabled elderly, disabled children and the blind.
On Monday night, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement that an agreement had been reached, following a conference call of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
from Moscow with Katz, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, National Economic Council chairman Prof. Avi Simhon and Avi Nissenkorn, head of the Histadrut
Katz’s legislation was drawn up based upon an agreement signed last year in September in which the government approved a NIS 4.2b. increase in disability benefits over the next four years.
Earlier this month, Netanyahu, Kahlon and Katz announced the allocation of NIS 2b. to increase disability allotments beginning this year, reflecting the first two payments.
The first payment of NIS 1.4b. will be paid retroactively since the beginning of January and will see an addition of NIS 340 per month per person for general disabilities and an addition of NIS 540 per month for people with severe disabilities.
The second payment will already be allotted on July 1, 2018, and will see an increase from NIS 340 to NIS 501 per month for people with general disabilities and to NIS 701 per month for people with severe disabilities.
To date, people with severe disabilities receive an allotment of some NIS 2,343 per month – while the minimum wage stands at NIS 5,300.
Following the announcement, Katz advanced legislation that would include the third and fourth payments. In a heated debate of the Knesset Welfare Committee, representatives of the Finance Ministry opposed anchoring the next two payments into legislation.
Shai Babad, Finance Ministry director- general, alluded to “the numerator” – a clause which states that the government cannot commit to the allocation of funds years in advance without a clear budgetary source.
The legislation backed by the ministers on Tuesday, however, is a win for the social services minister, as it includes the third and fourth payments as well as all the other demands made by Katz. The bill is set to go for a first reading in the Knesset this week.
Additionally, NIS 50 million will be allocated to disabled children.
Katz also recommended adding NIS 370m. for some 75,000 elderly disabled people as well as an increase in allotments for blind people totaling NIS 50m.
To date elderly disabled must decide between receiving a disability pension or an old-age pension, the new increase would allow for both.
Disabled groups, who launched protests last year blocking major intersections in a call to increase their allotments, were divided in their reaction to the legislation.
Alex Friedman, head of the group A Disabled Person is Not Half a Person, welcomed the announcement and said, “It is exciting to reap the fruits of our labors in the last three years and see the historic change happening.”
Despite this, the group Disabled Become Panthers, which on Monday night held protests outside the Finance Minister’s home, said that no agreement had been reached with the leaders of the disabled movement protests.
Eyal Cohen, the group’s head, said: “We have lost our trust and patience for the Israeli government and its leader.”
Cohen added that his group would continue to, and even escalate their protests until their demand for an immediate increase in allotments to reach the minimum wage is met.