Herzog to 'Post': Netanyahu backs inter-ministerial committee to aid ailing social welfare organizations.
By RUTH EGLASH
The new government is likely to approve measures aimed at bailing out the country's nonprofit sector during its first cabinet meeting on Sunday, a spokeswoman for Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog told The Jerusalem Post on Friday.
According to the minister, who begins his second term in the office this week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu supports the move, which will establish an inter-ministerial committee charged with creating a financial aid package to help struggling social welfare organizations.
The committee, which will include representatives from the Welfare, Health and Education ministries, will be asked to present its findings within 30 days - so that the financial aid can be included in the 2009 state budget. The special fund is part of the coalition agreement made between Labor and the Likud.
"The nonprofit sector is under serious threat of crashing completely and most of those who will be affected by this are the country's weakest and neediest populations who rely on their services," Herzog said on Friday.
The latest numbers from the Welfare Ministry show there has already been an 18 percent increase in the number of people turning to the social welfare system for assistance since the beginning of the year.
In addition, figures from the Employment Service show that some 80,000 people have been fired, with thousands more job lay-offs expected immediately after Pessah.
"According to the statistics the number of those in need of help is only growing," Herzog said. "Most international studies on this subject indicate that with any increase in unemployment also brings with it a sharp rise in poverty and in those who need help from outside sources."
Some 85% of the services provided by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry are outsourced to private organizations, nonprofits and the local authorities, explained a spokeswoman for Herzog. With the economy becoming weaker and people earning less, many nongovernment organizations are failing to find funding and are becoming unable to provide the same level of service as before the recession.
More than 30 NGOs issued a statement on Saturday night welcoming the new government's steps to implement the plan, which they said should be considered a high priority by any administration.
"Over the past month hundreds of people have been fired - lawyers, social workers, teachers and many more - and we already know that this is not the end of the lay-offs," said Ran Melamed, deputy director of Yedid-The Association for Community Empowerment.
Two weeks ago, before being sworn in as prime minister, Netanyahu met with the heads of more than 30 charities and social welfare organizations and assured them that he was willing to work together with them to beat the economic recession and continue helping them to provide assistance to the country's weakest populations.
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