MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) speaks during a recent protest calling for an increase in disability benefits. .
(photo credit: ANAT VARDIMON)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Labor and Social Services Welfare Haim Katz announced on Wednesday the allocation of NIS 2 billion to increase disability allotments beginning this year.
In a joint press conference, from which Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon was absent due to illness, the prime minister hailed the decision as “historic.”
In September, following protests in which disabled people obstructed busy intersections, the government approved a NIS 4.2b. increase in disability benefits over the next four years. The NIS 2b. announced on Wednesday consists of the first two payments toward that NIS 4.2b.
“Not only are we keeping our obligation to make the first payment on schedule, we are also advancing the second payment ahead of schedule,” Netanyahu said.
“We are taking these steps in order to provide a fast response to as many people in need as possible.”
The first payment of NIS 1.4b. will be given retroactively from 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 be allotted on July 1, and will see an increase of NIS 161 per month for both people with general disabilities and those with severe disabilities.
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.
Currently, the elderly disabled must decide between receiving a disability pension and an old-age pension; the initiative would allow for both.
The legislation has yet to pass final Knesset votes. A representative from the Finance Ministry said the financing will go to a vote on January 11.
Presently, people with severe disabilities receive an allotment of some NIS 2,343 per month – while the minimum wage is NIS 5,300.
The government agreement stipulated that the raise will be in proportion to the severity of the disability; those with the most debilitating conditions are to receive NIS 4,500 per month.
“I hope the disabled will welcome this decision and understand that this is only the first step,” Katz said at the press conference.
“The end goal is to reach [disability allotments equal to the] minimum wage,” he said.
Katz said that in reaching an agreement the government had to deal with dozens of disabled organizations, “some of which will not be happy and will continue with protests, while others will be very happy.”
Meretz faction chairman Ilan Gilon, who has advocated legislation to increase disability allotments to equal the minimum wage, criticized the announcement and said “It was all talk.”
“After they did not uphold their obligation to pass legislation by the first of January, the government and the Finance Ministry are continuing to breach and dissolve the compromise agreement we signed,” he said.
Gilon added: “Until legislation is passed with all the clauses – I see the agreement as being violated and I will promote the continuation of legislation in spite of the government in the coming week.”
Earlier in the day, the group Disabled Becoming Panthers, which has been opposed to the government deal, closed down a section of Route 4 in protest.