Lawmakers announced Thursday that disabled people will soon see their state disability stipend nearly doubled; however, it still falls short of their demands that it be made equivalent to the minimum wage.
At a press conference by lawmakers in Tel Aviv, coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud), flanked by MKs from every party in the Knesset, urged the government to “accept the united opinion of the entire Knesset.”
The new plan would raise the monthly stipend from NIS 2,342 ($660) to NIS 4,000 ($1,130), a jump that activists say would lift many thousands of poor and disabled citizens closer to the poverty line.
The new stipend level would be linked to the minimum wage, which is raised periodically through Knesset legislation. The stipend is currently linked to the consumer price index, which rises slower than the minimum wage does.
The proposal is a compromise between the demands of disability activists, including MK Ilan Gilon of Meretz, to set the stipend at the minimum wage, or NIS 5,000 ($1,400) per month, and those of a committee appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that is expected to recommend a more modest increase to NIS 3,200 ($900), and limit the stipend to those with very severe disabilities and no family.
The current plan is slated to be brought to the Knesset as a bill next month, with lawmakers saying they will demand government backing to ensure the bill passes into law by November, allowing the new stipend levels to begin to go into force from January 1, 2018.
MK Gilon, who is himself wheelchair-bound and represented Meretz at the Thursday press conference, called the plan “a compromise, a concession. I wanted [the stipend] to reach the minimum wage, but the important thing is the linkage to the minimum wage. That’s a fundamental change to the way the nation’s wealth is distributed.”
Yesh Atid’s MK Karin Elharar welcomed the proposal as a blow to “cynicism in politics. It’s for moments like this that we all came to the Knesset,” she said Thursday. “This is a good framework, but it’s just the start.”
MK Merav Ben Ari, of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu Party, called the announcement “a historic and moving moment,” while Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson vowed that “we will see [all] 120 Members of Knesset signed on this bill.”