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)
Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz announced on Wednesday that he has amended a bill to raise state payments to the disabled, to add an additional NIS 680 million in funding over the next four years.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will vote on Sunday on whether to provide government backing for the legislation, which is based on National Economic Council chairman Avi Simhon’s recommendations.
Currently, people with severe disabilities receive an allotment of NIS 2,343 per month – less than half the minimum wage, which rose on December 1 to NIS 5,300.
In September, following protests in which disabled people blocked busy intersections around the country, the government approved in principle a NIS 4.2 billion increase in disability benefits over the next four years, starting with a NIS 300 rise per person in January. Katz has now increased the proposed funding by NIS 680m., to a total of NIS 4.88b.
However, progress has been slow passing a law to implement the government’s promise. The 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.
The new bill primarily seeks to add an additional NIS 370m. for some 75,000 elderly disabled people as well as increase allotments for blind people totaling some NIS 70m.
At present, the elderly disabled must decide between receiving a disability pension or an old-age pension; the proposed increased would allow for them to receive both.
Despite the agreed upon budget, an official at the Labor and Social Services Ministry told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that there is concern that the Finance Ministry will not allocate the entire sum necessary to implement the disability allotment increases.
According to the Labor Ministry, the first installment toward the NIS 4.2b. will cost some NIS 1.98b.
On Wednesday, Zionist Union MKs slammed the government for not raising disability benefits by January 1, as it had promised.
The opposition faction held a press conference in the Knesset, in which it presented placards with photos and quotes from coalition lawmakers supporting increasing the payments, meant to highlight that they are not keeping their word.
Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson said: “Members of the coalition must look in the eyes of the citizens of Israel and say what they’ve chosen: the narrow interests of the coalition that is afraid of an election, or the public interest that is concerned about all citizens.”
MK Merav Michaeli said that the issue transcended coalition-opposition disputes and that everyone had come together to help disabled people.
“The response to the trust that we and the entire public placed [in the government] has come... We saw the prime minister laugh at all of us..., but the disabled are crying,” Michaeli said.
The opposition brought the coalition’s disability benefits plan to a vote in the Knesset on Wednesday, to challenge the coalition, but in the end the coalition supported the bill and it passed a preliminary reading.