Israel’s Cabinet on Monday approved the remaining elements of the “Safety Net 2020-2021” rescue plan for the country’s struggling economy.
The Cabinet approved a draft law for several aspects of the plan that will require changes to legislation, as well to expand the 2020-2021 budgetary framework by NIS 24 billion ($7 billion) to pay for the plan’s implementation. The draft legislation will be immediately submitted to the Knesset for approval, according to a joint statement by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry.
The plan, which was first presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz on Thursday and part of which was approved on Sunday, includes the extension of full unemployment benefits until June 2021 or until unemployment falls below 10 percent, and the payment stipends of up to NIS 4,000 per month ($1,163) to those aged 67 and over until December 2020.
Under the plan, the self-employed and business owners are also eligible for an immediate assistance stipend for May-June, 2020. This stipend, which was approved for immediate implementation on Sunday, has already been paid to over 300,000 self-employed individuals and business owners “and is expected to enter bank accounts in the coming days,” according to the statement. The total amount disbursed thus far is NIS 1.8 billion ($532 million), the statement said.
In addition, businesses and self-employed individuals with an annual turnover of up to NIS 100 million ($29 million), and whose sales turnover declined by at least 40 percent in comparison to the parallel period, will receive bimonthly-to-monthly stipends until June 2021.
The plan also includes tax relief measures, business license extensions and NIS 3.5 billion in assistance to populations with special needs, such as the elderly, the disabled and citizens under lockdown due to the pandemic.
While calling the plan “comprehensive” and “unprecedented” in his opening remarks to Monday’s Cabinet session, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that there were “holes in the net” that needed to be addressed.
“I know that it is not complete; I also know that there are holes in it,” Netanyahu said. “The finance minister and I have already spoken, and I intend to speak about this also with [Defense Minister] Benny Gantz, in order to provide a response to the holes in the net.
“There are many things that need to be dealt with, including help for families, sectors and other things. We will deal with all of these; at the end of the meeting, we will discuss the best way to do this,” said Netanyahu.