Emergency stipends for Israeli children and pensioners will almost certainly not be delivered before Passover begins on Wednesday, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow that the funds would arrive before the holiday, according to a Friday report.
Officials from the Treasury and the National Insurance Institute held talks on the stipends and determined that there was no practical way to disburse the money by the Passover deadline, Channel 12 reported.
The prime minister’s office requested clarification from the National Insurance Institute on the expected delay, the report said.
The stipends are expected to be approved by the Knesset Labor Committee.
Netanyahu on Wednesday announced that families would receive a one-off payment of NIS 500 per child (approximately $140), up to the fourth child, ahead of the holiday. There will also be stipends for the elderly, he said, without specifying the minimum age.
He said these payments would be approved via emergency legislation, and that payments will be made directly into bank accounts, with no bureaucratic red tape.
Treasury officials were reportedly blindsided by the announcement.
Senior Finance Ministry officials told Channel 12 that the move was not coordinated with them and they did not know where the money was supposed to come from.
It was not immediately clear what the total cost of the package would be, but it could run to several billion shekels.
However, sources close to the prime minister told Channel 12 that the proposal for the stipends was made by ministry officials and the Treasury was a full partner in the decision.
To approve the stipends, lawmakers would need to convene in the Knesset, draft the legislation and pass it in three readings. Only after this could the money begin to be distributed.
Under the current transitional government, not all the necessary Knesset committees have been set up and lawmakers have also faced technical restrictions to voting while they maintain social distancing.
One option that was being explored was to temporarily increase the amounts sent to people through existing child and old age stipends, which are paid by the National Insurance Institute on the 20th and 28th of each month respectively.
Netanyahu’s announcement came as widespread restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the disease have rocked Israel’s economy.
Israel on Wednesday registered more than a million jobless citizens for the first time in its existence, as the coronavirus pandemic was putting more and more workplaces out of business.
The National Employment Service said Thursday that the number of unemployed stood at 1,039,791.
Almost a quarter of Israel’s workforce — 24.9 percent — is now jobless, including some 160,000 people who had been unemployed before the crisis.
Among those seeking state benefits, 89% have been placed on unpaid leave by their workplaces, while 6.6% were fired, according to the National Employment Service.
The cabinet on Thursday approved emergency grants for self-employed Israelis whose businesses have been hit by the pandemic. The self-employed were previously ineligible for unemployment benefits.
Some 400,000 Israelis could qualify for the self-employment benefits, Hebrew media reported.
Israel has unveiled a NIS 80 billion ($22.5 billion) economic rescue plan to help the economy survive the pandemic.
The coronavirus has infected 7,428 Israelis and killed 39 as of Friday night.