With some 35,000 people joining the unemployment lines in the first three months of 2009 and the unemployment rate reaching its highest level in almost two years - 7.6 percent - changes to the criteria for receiving jobless benefits due this week will be warmly welcomed. Starting on Monday, people who have been laid off will be able to claim full unemployment benefits even if they have worked for only nine months of the last 18. Until now, you had to have been employed for at least year in the previous year-and-a-half to get financial assistance from the state. An NIS 100 million plan, which was presented jointly by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry and the National Insurance Institute back in March, aims to help people now joining the ranks of the unemployed. "We are talking about a social security network that will support as many unemployed people as possible," Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog said in a statement. "I believe that this agreement will succeed in helping a large segment of the population that is still in shock and disbelief at the new economic reality." NII director-general Esther Dominissini said that the new regulations were part of an attempt by the institute to deal with the country's growing unemployment problem. The CBS said last week that it expected the unemployment rate to reach almost 10% by the end of the year. More than 80,000 people have been made redundant since the global economic crisis began last summer. Earlier this month, the Industry Ministry Trade and Labor Ministry reported that the number of people vying for every vacant job was growing and that within six months there will be more than 14 people applying for each available position, compared to only four in 2007 and 2008.