DR. AMY ROSENBLUH stands in the doorway of her fire-gutted home in the settlement of Halamish yesterday. .
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The Finance Ministry reached an agreement with the private insurance companies on Wednesday regarding the compensation of citizens whose property was damaged in the previous week’s fires.
“The willingness of the insurance companies to help and their level of sensitivity are deserving of respect,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said following a meeting with the companies’ representatives.
According to the ministry, insurance companies have agreed to cover the gap between the Property Tax Fund’s maximum compensation and the victim’s property actual value.
According to property tax law, the state will compensate citizens for direct and indirect property damages caused by hostile acts, war or terrorism, through the Tax Authority’s Property Tax Fund. While the fund will fully cover the value of a damaged housing unit, it will only issue a maximum payment of NIS 150,000 for the home’s content.
Many victims, mainly in Zichron Ya’acov, have already complained that the content of the home they lost in the fire was worth more that NIS 150,000. In cases eligible for the fund’s compensation, the private insurance sector is exempt from paying the victims, leaving many victims with a considerable loss.
“I want to thank the managers and owners of the insurance companies who showed goodwill and committed themselves to aid their clients in this difficult hour by taking it upon themselves to cover this gap,” Kahlon said at the end of the meeting on Wednesday.
However, the agreement only extends to citizens who are privately insured by these companies, whose home content is valued above NIS 150,000.
Additionally, only cases that the police concluded to be the result of deliberate, nationalistically motivated arson are eligible for compensation by the state.
According to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, roughly 45% of Israelis with home insurance are not covered in case of fire, and of those who have this insurance, not all have extended their coverage to include their possessions inside the home. This sector of the public is especially dependent on the Property Tax Fund for relief.
Additionally, private businesses that incurred damages in the fires are only eligible for compensation by the fund for structural damage, and not for the loss of revenue. This fact prompted Tourism Minister Yariv Levin to dispatch a letter to Kahlon and the Finance Ministry asking that special compensation be provided also for small businesses.
“Whoever lost his business lost his life’s work. Reestablishing a small business after the fire can take up to three years; if the owner isn’t compensated for loss of revenue during that time, his business might never recover,” Levin wrote. “I turn to you with a request to expand the compensation procedure to also include compensation for the loss of revenue by the affected businesses, the same as was done for businesses after the Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense and Protective Edge operations.”
A Finance Ministry representative told The Jerusalem Post only that “the state will reach a decision later” on the issue of compensation for lost revenue.