A man picks up a Kassam rocket after it landed in Sderot on July 3.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Several government bodies took steps late Monday and Tuesday to help ease the economic burden on residents and businesses near Gaza, as a barrage of Hamas rockets has interrupted daily life and business as usual.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid told the Knesset Finance Committee on Tuesday that “we’ll take care of everything – both the loss of work days and direct damage. Everything will be handled.”
Already, he said, the ministry was working to compensate nearly 100 claimants for some NIS 10 million worth of property damage. Similar measures were taken during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.
Lapid was also working to support summer activities in other parts of the country so that kids would not have to spend their summers in bomb shelters.
To help businesses, on Monday Lapid extended the tax payment deadline for those operating within 40 km. of Gaza, giving them until July 25 to pay their VAT and income tax.
According to the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, most businesses in the rocket-hit areas have closed either partially or fully due to security concerns or a simple lack of customers.
The Bank of Israel’s supervisor of banks, David Zaken, announced cooperation with the IDF Home Front Command and ordered bank branches in the South not to restrict people’s accounts over bad checks until further notice. He also urged them to facilitate operations via phone to help customers who could not show up at branches, and be flexible with credit – though he left final decisions in that realm to the banks’ discretion.
Bank Hapoalim said it would allow delays in mortgage payments for up to three months and remove penalties for withdrawing funds for some deposits, as well as offering preferential loans.
The Economy Ministry’s Small and Medium Business Agency set up a website to provide businesses with information and help in dealing with the security situation. It offers consultations at subsidized prices of NIS 80 an hour, which it says is just a fifth of the regular, private-sector cost.
On a separate economic front, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett signed an order Monday night to force workers in companies that provide essential services to work during times of emergency. Earlier Monday, Ashdod Port workers abandoned their posts at the behest of their union chief over safety concerns, circumventing the legal channels, which insisted that the workers were safe. Bennett immediately added the Ashdod Port to the list of essential companies to ensure they did not leave their posts again.
Of course, not every business suffers in times of security trouble.
The Association of Contractors and Renovators, for instance, noted that demand for installing safe rooms had surged in recent days.