(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Knesset’s Labor and Welfare Committee called Wednesday on the government to continue the full funding offered to participants in the Wisconsin “welfare-to-work” plan during a transition period and until an alternate plan is formulated. Only one week after the same committee voted not to renew funding for the controversial program, MKs confronted questions arising from the sudden cessation of the plan.
The Finance Ministry, petitioners complained, planned on maintaining only some, but not all, of the benefits offered to program participants in order to facilitate employment. Participants in the Wisconsin Plan, unlike those who work with the government-run National Employment Service, were entitled to work-assisting benefits such as subsidized travel expenses and childcare.
On Sunday, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) is expected to hold a meeting during which representatives of the various government ministries will draw up a more specific plan to integrate the former Wisconsin participants under the auspices of the National Employment Services.
At that meeting, Yossi Farhi, director of the Employment Services Board, will present his plan for integrating the 18,000 Wisconsin Plan participants, many of whom have already reported to employment boards requesting assistance.
“The National Employment Services know how to absorb the employees who
have been released from the Wisconsin program,” Farhi told the Knesset
committee. “We will absorb them with love, and will assist them in
being integrated into the workforce.”
Farhi said that in the previous year, his office handled over 145,000 work-seekers.
As the Knesset committee continued to debate the fate of those who had
participated in the program, a few hundred former employees and former
participants in the program protested loudly outside the Knesset.
The Wisconsin Plan – whose official name in Hebrew was “Lights for
Employment” was launched as a pilot in August 2005. The program was
outsourced by the government to four private companies in
Ashkelon/Sderot, Jerusalem, Nazareth and Hadera.