Responsibility for survivor benefits shifts from Finance to Welfare Ministry

Finance Ministry also announces new benefits for survivors, adds NIS 50 million to annual payouts.

Holocaust survivors at Auschwitz 370 (photo credit: reuters)
Holocaust survivors at Auschwitz 370
(photo credit: reuters)
Control over the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority will be transferred from the Finance Ministry to the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Welfare Minister Meir Cohen announced on Monday.
The Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority is responsible for providing monthly payments, medical treatments, rehabilitation and welfare services to Holocaust survivors.
Speaking to members of the Knesset State Control Committee during a session attended by representatives of Israel’s survivor community, Lapid explained that the move was intended to “bring together all bodies dealing with Holocaust survivors under one roof.”
Nothing for survivors will change, Lapid said. The physical locations of offices, phone numbers and fax lines will all stay the same, he added.
The Finance Ministry also announced several new benefits that will be granted to survivors, including that they will no longer be required to present receipts for electronic devices to receive a tax refund, and their disability levels will no longer be rounded up to the nearest percentage point, granting them higher benefits.
Earlier this month, Lapid signed orders to add NIS 50 million to the annual payouts, starting immediately.
The updated allotments categories include basic survivor payments, the budget for special benefits such as those with a social dimension, and benefits for partners of deceased survivors.
Lapid said that while he understood the anxiety of the country’s approximately 170,000 survivors over the transfer of authority, there is scant time to help the remaining survivors.
Since “we have not done a good enough job in treating survivors of the Holocaust,” changes must be made, he said.
“If the reality is not good, you need to change it.” The government is in the process of streamlining aid to survivors, he said, by compiling a consolidated list of survivors.
But some survivors expressed their dismay with Lapid’s move.
According to Uri Chanoch, 86, the vice chairman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, moving the authority is a “very bad decision.”
Chanoch said survivors will be made to feel stigmatized by having to deal with the welfare office. While there have always been issues with how the government has handled payments to survivors, he said, things have improved greatly over the previous decade.
Chanoch said that every minister wants to put his imprint on projects under his authority and that there would be an increase in paperwork and changes in personnel under Lapid and Cohen’s plan.
For the survivors, he said, it is “so complicated.”
“The state is giving more money, they have good relations with us, they are trying to do their best,” he said. “So why break it? You say you want everything under one roof? Make it under the roof of the Finance Ministry.”
Niv Elis contributed to this report.