Coalition chairman MK David Bitan convened a press conference today, with participation from all Knesset factions, at which a united front was presented in opposition to the emerging recommendation by the Committee for the Examination of Disability Allowances (the Simhon Committee) on allowances for the disabled, Walla! News reports. It is believed that the Simhon Committee recommended raising the allowance for poor disabled people to NIS 3,200 a month in a single increase. This was preceded by a recommendation by the Zelekha Committee to raise monthly allowances to NIS 4,000, but in four installments.
The Knesset factions at the press conference support raising the monthly disability allowance to NIS 4,000 in three installments, and linking it to increases in the minimum wage. The first installment will take effect in January. According to the format in the government bill, the allowance will not be raised to the level of the minimum wage, NIS 5,000 a month, but will be increased with every increase in the minimum wage. Participants in the press conference included MKs Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu), Yigal Guetta (Shas), Ilan Gilon (Meretz), Nava Boker (Likud), Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Jewish Home), Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union), Osama Sa'adi (Joint List), Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid), Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism), and Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenu).
At the press conference, Bitan first presented the problems from which disabled people suffer. "The first problem is the very low allowances, which have not been increased for 15 years. Some disabled people don't have enough to eat. The second problem is integrating the disabled in the labor market. The solution we want to devise is to put disabled people to work. The situation today is that a disabled person who works has his allowance cut. This issue is important to all the MKs, especially those you see here. All of us, from both the coalition and the opposition, are working hand in hand to find a way to give disabled people something else," he said.
"The poverty line in Israel is NIS 3,060, so it is important for the first installment to rise above the poverty line and reach NIS 3,200, and then there will be more installments," Bitan explained. "There is now a budget that makes it possible to increase the allowance, and Israel will also develop in the future, so that tax collection will be high, and there is the income from natural gas that we can give to the economically disadvantaged."
Bitan went on to say, "What I want is that if a disabled person's income reaches NIS 10,000, his allowance will not be cut. There is no agreement on this with the Ministry of Finance, but we have to reach agreement. As part of the Knesset's united front, we'll ask the government to make concessions in this direction."
The current disabled people's protest began in February, when the ministerial committee rejected the proposal by Gilon to make the disability allowance equal to the minimum wage. Following the protest, the Zelekha Committee was formed, followed by the Simhon Committee. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established the Simhon Committee a month ago, two days after the team headed by Professor Yaron Zelekha presented its recommendations.
It is believed that the Simhon Committee's recommendations do not include raising all allowances to the level of the minimum wage; instead, it recommendsadding services for disabled people. It is also recommending a differential increase in allowances, including an examination of the individual circumstances of every disabled person. The allowance of those with low incomes will be increased to NIS 3,200 within a year - an addition of NIS 500-700 - and housing assistance will be raised from NIS 770 to NIS 1,000.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on June 22, 2017
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