Old-age, widows' benefits increase

Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog's plan to eventually raise old-age and widows' benefits to equal the average market wage (NIS 7,500) started going into effect on Tuesday, with the total monthly payments reaching NIS 4,623 for some widows. "We are looking at the start of a very important change in providing support for Holocaust survivors, those who currently receive income supplements and pensioners in general," Herzog said in a statement. "My goal is to raise elderly benefits to the same level as the average wage to reduce economic gaps in society." Under the plan, 738,000 pensioners and Holocaust survivors will receive an increase to their pension, which this month will be distributed on the 16th instead of the normal 28th in order to arrive before Pessah. Single pensioners will get NIS 1,213, up from NIS 1,191, and a couple will receive NIS 1,823, up from NIS 1,787. Those over the age of 80 will receive an additional NIS 74 a month. The increase, together with rises in income support and other payments, could bring some widows' benefits up to NIS 4,623. "This is certainly a step in the right direction for a group of people that is not able to change its financial situation without the help of government benefits," said Ester Dominissini, who was recently appointed director-general of the National Insurance Institute. According to Herzog, NIS 650 million has been allocated to increase pensions over the next two years.