Benefits Cut for Disabled Israelis Filing for Unemployment During Coronavirus Crisis

A clause in the income law says the the additional money a disabled person receives for dependents is to be cut if the same person is also receiving unemployment pay

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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A woman gets her temperature tested at the entrance to the National Insurance building in Jerusalem, March 2020.
A woman gets her temperature tested at the entrance to the National Insurance building in Jerusalem, March 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Israel is cutting thousands of shekels from benefits given to disabled people who have families and who have also lost their job due to the coronavirus crisis and applied for unemployment.

A clause in the income law stipulates that once a disabled person starts receiving unemployment pay, the extra money they receive for their dependents as part of their disability benefits must be reduced by every shekel they get through unemployment.

Tens of thousands of disabled people are expected to lose part of their monthly income due to this clause. The National Insurance Institute director has called for legislation to amend the law, citing the exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus crisis.

Israel's National Insurance Director Meir Shpigler.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Like many others across the country, numerous disabled people with families were let go or sent on unpaid leave because of the crisis. But instead of receiving special assistance from the state during this critical situation, they might end up losing out.
For example, a 38-year-old mother of three eligible for disability benefits receives 5,229 shekels ($1,435) a month, a sum that includes additional funds for dependents. After being placed on unpaid leave, she applies for unemployment. Now she will lose the additional funds she receives for her dependents, leaving her with only 3,321 shekels.

According to the NII figures obtained by Haaretz, 261,000 people receive disability payments, and about a quarter of them – 63,000 – are employed. The basic disability allocation is 3,321 shekels a month, while married people and those with children receive up to an additional 3,000 shekels a month for dependents.

National Insurance Director Meir Spiegler wrote in an official document last week that he believes the current situation demands an amendment to the law, since the legislation as it is hurts the weakest members of society. Spiegler wrote that in the case of people with disabilities, like single mothers whose benefits have been slashed, unemployment pay should be calculated as wages so it doesn’t reduce the sum they receive.

The Clinical Legal Education Center, part of the law department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which gives legal aid to needy people, sent a letter on the matter to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon last week.

“The emergency situation requires taking significant steps for all those whose income has been reduced significantly at this time due to the transition from earning wages to unemployment payments, while their expenses haven’t changed at all, especially those who receive food allocations and disability allocations,” the letter read.

The center’s director, attorney Vardit Dimri-Madar, and attorney Ohad Amar of a clinic that represents people who live in the periphery, wrote that “these families live in poverty and have difficulty surviving with dignity even at a time when they work and receive benefits, let alone when their incomes have plunged significantly overnight.”

Alex Friedman, who runs an organization for disabled people’s rights, called the situation “a systematic discrimination of disabled people.” “Regrettably, people with disabilities, who are discriminated against in everyday life, are suffering twice as much in the coronavirus crisis. They are being overlooked in the preparations as well as in unemployment pay. The state gives with one hand and grabs with the other. Unemployment payments must be equal for all.”

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