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Unemployment eligibility extended to June 2021 as economic relief plan approved

Knesset gives final okay to treasury proposal, which outlines grants for the self-employed and businesses hurt by the pandemic, and workers over 67 who have been laid off

Self-employed Israelis block a road in Tel Aviv, during a protest calling for financial support from the government, July 11, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Self-employed Israelis block a road in Tel Aviv, during a protest calling for financial support from the government, July 11, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Knesset on Tuesday night gave final approval to an economic plan to aid battered businesses and workers hurt by the coronavirus pandemic and its restrictions.

Lawmakers backed the bill in its second and third readings, passing it into law with 67 in favor, none opposed, and three abstentions.

Among the measures included in the relief package are an extension of eligibility for unemployment benefits through June 2021, monthly “adjustment grants” of NIS 4,000 ($1,163) for workers above the age of 67 who lost their jobs due to the outbreak through the end of 2020, and a bimonthly grant of up to NIS 15,000 ($4,363) for self-employed businesses hit by the pandemic, also through June 2021.

Should unemployment drop to below 10%, then the unemployment benefits extended until June next year will be cut to 90%. If the figure goes below 7.5%, the extension will end within 30 days.

Other elements of the package grant an extension of expenses reimbursement for businesses whose revenues suffered a hit of at least 40%, by increasing the maximum grant to NIS 500,000 ($145,450) per round.

Finance Minister Israel Katz holds a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem on July 01, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

In addition, tax exemptions will be granted to the newly laid off who are withdrawing from their savings.

Recently discharged IDF veterans were also given more leeway to withdraw from their discharge deposits, with those who finished their service in the past 18 months permitted to withdraw NIS 11,000 and those who were released before that allowed to pull out up to NIS 7,500.

“This is a law of mutual responsibility, and public servants really joined together here,” said Finance Minister Yisrael Katz after the law passed. “We are easing [the situation] for many demographics, the youth, self-employed and business owners, with a dynamic economic security net that is adaptable… to help us get through this period.”

Both Katz and Knesset Finance Committee head Moshe Gafni said there were no disagreements between the coalition and opposition on the proposal.

The government and Netanyahu in particular have faced harsh criticism and growing protests over their handling of the financial impact of the virus and the provision of assistance to those who are struggling.

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.

The Knesset was also set to advance stimulus payments for nearly all Israelis.

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