ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Recently discharged ‘lone soldiers’ to receive NIS 4,000 coronavirus grant

Housing assistance will be given to veterans in light of economic crisis, following complaints they were not eligible for existing unemployment aid

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers seen at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, on May 10, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers seen at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, on May 10, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The government on Wednesday approved a special one-time grant of NIS 4,000 ($1,400) for recently discharged “lone soldiers,” who either don’t have family in Israel or aren’t financially supported by their family, to help them through the coronavirus pandemic, the Defense Ministry said.

Strict lockdown measures applied over the past two months saw hundreds of thousands of Israelis lose their jobs or be put on unpaid leave from work as the economy came to a virtual standstill. To assist this massive jobless population, the government expanded unemployment benefits, granting them to those who were in their positions for at least six months, instead of the usual 12.

However, a number of recently released lone soldiers complained that they were not eligible for the funds as they had only recently entered the workforce, less than six months ago. As most of them are not financially supported by their families, these veterans have also not been able to rely on assistance from their parents, as many other recently released soldiers have been able to do.

“Because of the coronavirus crisis, the population of recently released lone soldiers has been dealing with particular difficulties, due to their need to begin their civilian lives without family support during this sweeping financial crisis,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

In light of those difficulties, the government decided to offer these recently discharged soldiers the NIS 4,000 housing grant. The proposal was approved by the Prime Minister’s Office, Defense Ministry and Finance Ministry.

The money will be allocated through the Defense Ministry’s Foundation for Discharged Soldiers. Only soldiers released from the military within the past year are eligible. Those interested in applying must provide a copy of their rental agreement, showing they paid rent between March and May 31, 2020.

The ministry said the funds should be distributed “shortly.”

In addition, the government was considering giving the recently discharged veterans access to a sum of money set aside for them upon discharge from the military that is ordinarily only available to pay for education, a home or opening a business, or after marriage, or after five years of the soldiers’ release.

Changing the rules for the military deposit will require cabinet approval and amending the law that sets the deposit according to the length and type of service.

In light of the ongoing crisis, active lone soldiers, who are due to be released from the military shortly, have also been given the opportunity to remain in the Israel Defense Forces, which guarantees them housing and other assistance.

Approximately 7,000 lone soldiers are currently serving in the military, according to the IDF.

Roughly half of those troops are foreign-born, and came to Israel without their families. The other half are native Israelis who for one reason or another are not financially supported by their parents, including many who come from ultra-Orthodox families that do not agree with their decision to serve in the military.

Earlier this month some 100 discharged lone soldiers protested outside the IDF’s headquarters at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv to highlight their plight at not being able to claim unemployment benefit while also not having the support of close family in country.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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