President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday granted his first pardon for debts faced by those hurt financially by the coronavirus pandemic, in a sign of the hard economic times caused by Israel’s fight against the virus.
The president announced the new initiative last week together with Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn. Rivlin said he would issue pardons for those who qualified who are in debt as a result of government restrictions meant to fight the spread of COVID-19 and who have previous outstanding debts
According to Rivlin’s office, the first pardon he issued was for a single mother of three children, two of them with disabilities, who was the victim of domestic violence and had racked up fines and debts from a past drug addiction and sex work. The woman is now in a long-term rehabilitation program, but her disability payments have not been enough to cover expenses, and work opportunities dried up with the pandemic.
Noting she had made efforts to pay her debts, Rivlin issued a pardon canceling the remaining debt.
The President’s Residence has said no pardons would be considered for debts incurred due to fines for violations of social distancing rules.
The granting of the pardon comes as Israel is in in the midst of an over three-week national lockdown, the second imposed in the country since the pandemic began.
Many business owners have decried the shutdown as a fatal blow to their livelihoods, which suffered greatly during the first lockdown in March.
As of Wednesday, 909,460 Israelis were unemployed, including 572,908 who have been furloughed.
The Employment Service said Wednesday that 178,020 have been added to the unemployment rolls since September 17, the day before the current lockdown began.