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Government to cancel fines for people suffering financially from COVID-19

Process put in place for pardoning certain monetary penalties, but not those levied for breaking coronavirus rules

President Reuven Rivlin attends a conference in Tel Aviv on December 2, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
President Reuven Rivlin attends a conference in Tel Aviv on December 2, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

President Reuven Rivlin and Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn announced Tuesday a special clemency process for fines aimed at helping those undergoing financial difficulties caused by the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The new process, drafted in a joint effort of the president’s office and the Justice Ministry, will apply to those who are in debt as a result of government restrictions meant to fight to the spread of coronavirus and who have previous outstanding debts.

It will examine the specific financial situation of each applicant, their ability to pay the fines in question, the amount of effort the applicant invested in trying to pay the fines, and the overall sum owed.

The statement did not specify which fines were under consideration, but specifically excluded fines related to violations of the regulations to prevent the spread of the virus and traffic infractions.

Israel has imposed a new national coronavirus lockdown, its second this year, which entered into effect Friday at 2 p.m.

Many business owners have decried the three-week shutdown as a fatal blow to their livelihoods, which suffered greatly during the first lockdown in March.

New Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn speaks during a ceremony at the Justice Ministry on May 18, 2020. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

Rivlin, in a statement that stressed mutual responsibility in battling the coronavirus and caring for those most affected by it, said, “Too many Israelis have found themselves, overnight, fighting for their lives financially. At a time like this, the State of Israel must lend a hand to its people and help those who need it.”

Nissenkorn added, “It is our duty to do everything we can to help those in arrears to keep their heads above water. The special process we are announcing today will give further relief to the many people in debt because of fines and will solve the financial difficulties they are in by using the right to grant pardons.”

Late Monday night the cabinet approved a NIS 10.5 billion ($3 billion) aid package in an effort to assist those affected by the second lockdown, including pay cuts for lawmakers and senior government officials.

While the government was praised for its initial handling of the pandemic, implementing a strict lockdown in March, many Israelis have expressed frustration at the cabinet’s perceived mismanagement of the health crisis in recent months.

Israel had a total of 193,374 cases Tuesday, of which 51,338 were active. Of those sick, 668 were in serious condition (159 of them on ventilators) and 263 were in moderate condition. The rest had mild or no symptoms. The death toll stood at 1,285.

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