Netanyahu reportedly preparing for another cash handout to citizens next month
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Netanyahu reportedly preparing for another cash handout to citizens next month

Head of National Economic Council said to be reviewing what is being done with money already distributed, with a view to providing more ahead of High Holiday season

People wearing face masks due to the coronavirus shop at Malha Mall in Jerusalem on July 29, 2020. 
(Fitoussi/ Flash90)
People wearing face masks due to the coronavirus shop at Malha Mall in Jerusalem on July 29, 2020. (Fitoussi/ Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking at another cash handout to citizens to follow the one that began this week as part of his program to rejuvenate the economy, which is buckling under the burden of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new round of handouts would be delivered in mid-September, with a view to helping the population celebrate the High Holiday season, the Kan public broadcaster reported Monday.

National Economic Council head Avi Simhon is reviewing what happened to the money provided so far, and in particular is aiming to determine if it is being used to purchase necessary items, as was the intention, or if it is just absorbed into people’s bank accounts, where it may have been swallowed by overdrafts.

Netanyahu himself hinted that another payout is coming, in remarks he made at the opening of his Likud party’s weekly faction meeting at the Knesset.

“We aren’t resting for a moment,” he said. “We will bring more and more plans, more and more money for citizens and businesses to stimulate the economy.”

Screen capture from video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of the Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, August 3, 2020. (Knesset channel)

The holiday period begins with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, on September 18, and continues over the following three weeks, which include Yom Kippur and the week-long Sukkot festival that begins October 2.

The National Insurance Institute has spent months gathering bank details of citizens to better facilitate the payments, which are made directly into Israelis’ accounts.

Unlike the wave of handouts begun this week, which gave equal amounts to all Israelis dependent only on their family status and the number of children they have — to the exclusion of high wage earners — the September payments may be biased in favor of low-income members of the population, the report said.

However Finance Ministry officials, who are anyway against the handout scheme, are also against the idea of targeting specific populations, Kan reported.

Avi Simhon, chairman of the National Economic Council, attends a conference of the Israeli newspaper ‘Makor Rishon,’ in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Sunday, the NII directly deposited grants to some 1.2 million Israelis, with more expected to be paid out in the coming days. The institute said that it would continue transferring payments to one million Israelis daily, until everyone had received their stipends, Channel 12 reported at the time.

The handouts consist of money for families with children under the age of 18, with seniors coming next, and, eventually, the rest of the country’s adult population.

Families will receive NIS 500 ($146) for each of their first four kids, with another NIS 300 ($87) from the fifth child onward.

When fully rolled out, the program will see more than NIS 6.5 billion ($1.9 billion) disbursed to eligible citizens.

The measure was approved after undergoing several revisions since first being unveiled by Netanyahu on July 15, when he said it was vital to get the money out quickly in order to get the wheels of the economy moving again.

Increasing numbers of Israelis have reported feeling anxiety and concerns over their ability to pay their bills during the resurgent coronavirus outbreak, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported on July 26.

According to the CBS, 55 percent of Israelis were concerned over their ability to cover monthly expenses during the economic downturn and that more than a fifth had either reduced their food intake during the crisis to save money or lived with someone who had.

During a national lockdown in March-April, the economy came to an almost total standstill. Unemployment soared to 26 percent and over a million Israelis were out of work. Over the past few months restrictions have mostly been lifted, but unemployment remains at over 20% with some 800,000 Israelis jobless, according to the Israeli Employment Service.

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