The cabinet will vote this month to augment aid to Holocaust victims, including a 1-billion-shekel ($289 million) annual supplement from 2014 to be divided among the 200,000 survivors living in Israel.
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Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Social Affairs Minister Meir Cohen hope to push through the necessary legislation within 30 days after the cabinet meets in about two weeks, to complete the process before the next Knesset recess. Finance Ministry officials said over the weekend that other items in the state budget would have to be cut.
In a statement, Cohen described the move as “the most important and significant repair carried out by the State of Israel on behalf of Holocaust survivors, a correction that the state owes to thousands of survivors who formed the Zionist and national foundation so important to the state’s establishment.”
The new allocation would come on top of the 835 million shekels that Lapid earmarked, in his first year as finance minister, for Holocaust survivors over the next five years.
Lapid and Cohen’s plan contains a number of measures to help survivors. These include giving 18,500 survivors of the ghettos and death camps who immigrated after 1953 the same benefits as their counterparts who arrived earlier, at a total cost of 277 million shekels.
If the proposal is approved, these survivors will see their monthly stipend from the state increase to between 1,825 shekels and 5,400 shekels from between 1,500 shekels and 1,800 shekels, depending on their level of disability. In addition, they will be eligible for monthly stipends of between 5,300 shekels and 8,800 shekels, depending on their financial situation.
Also, the minimum monthly allowance paid by the state to Holocaust survivors will rise to 2,200 shekels, at a total cost of 166 million shekels. Currently, these monthly stipends range between 1,825 shekels and 5,400, excluding other benefits and based on financial needs. This change would affect 70,000 survivors of Nazi persecution and 18,500 survivors of the ghettos and concentration camps.
The plan would increase to 100 percent from 50 percent the discount received by Holocaust survivors on prescription drugs, at an estimated cost to the state of 130 million shekels. In a bid to reduce bureaucracy, funds for the purchase of these drugs would be deposited directly into survivors’ bank accounts, eliminating the need to submit receipts.
Holocaust survivors who immigrated after 1953 and who were not imprisoned in ghettos or concentration camps would be eligible for an annual gift of 3,600 shekels for dental care and eyeglasses, to be deposited directly into their accounts, at a total cost to the state of 288 million shekels.
At present, this group is eligible for a 4,000-shekel reimbursement for these services every two years, only after submitting receipts and other documentation. In addition, 9,000 particularly needy survivors would receive an annual grant of 2,000 shekels, at a cost of 18 million shekels.
The program would also provide assistance to the surviving spouses of Holocaust survivors, extending the time period for which they receive a 2,000-shekel monthly stipend.
Also in the plan are allocations for social services to Holocaust survivors at senior day-care centers, at an annual cost of 10 million shekels, and psychiatric and psychological services as well as home visits, at an annual cost of about 50 million shekels. In addition, needs testing for Holocaust survivors would be modified to exclude pensions from the Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority in calculating benefits, a move expected to cost the state 55 million shekels a year.