Child-support payments provided by the National Insurance Institute (NII) to 13,000 single mothers will be reduced starting in August after a 2016 temporary order, which allowed the payments, expired at the beginning of July.
The Social Affairs Ministry promised the matter would be addressed in the 2021-22 state budget, but the Knesset will only approve that in another three months, and in the meantime the payments will be reduced. Officials explained that it was difficult to extend the order before it expired because the new Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee had not yet been formed, and the political situation makes it difficult to pass legislation.
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The social affairs minister’s office added that “no woman would be harmed during 2021. All funds due to these women will be paid retroactively after the budget is passed.”
The temporary order affects thousands of divorced women who get child support directly from the NII because their husbands have failed to pay it. The NII provides the women with the money the court had ordered their former husbands to pay and then seeks to garnish it from his wages.
The law allows the NII to reduce the payments to women who earn more than a certain amount, which deters single mothers from trying to earn more, but the temporary order had sought to mitigate that. The measure, which was renewed in 2019, had reduced the size of payments the NII was permitted to offset that were owed to women who earned between 700 and 3,000 shekels (about $210 and $910) a month to only 27 percent from 60 percent.
The ministry and the NII want to make the temporary order a permanent amendment to the Income Maintenance Law, so that mothers “don’t have to stand like beggars at the door,” as one ministry official put it. The ministry says that it's trying to fix the issue by two different methods: either by attaching the amendment to the next bill that comes before the Knesset Finance Committee, or by passing it as part of the Budget Arrangements Law. The latter, however, can only happen later this year when the state budget is submitted to the Knesset for approval.
One woman who will be affected is Orly Weisfried, a single mother of two from Gan Yavne, who works half-time. “Because of the offset, it makes no sense financially to increase my hours and pay,” she explained. “I won’t be as home as much, and my income won’t increase.”
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Like many others, Weisfried was surprised to hear that the temporary order had expired. “I didn’t realize it was temporary. I thought they had amended the law and that was that. It’s very sad. As if in the current situation struggling to survive isn’t enough, now it’s going to get worse,” she said. “We don’t need handouts or any favors done for us. It isn’t nice to sit at home and get child-support, I would be happy to give it up if I could. They have to amend the laws so that mothers can properly support their children and will be able to look them in the eyes.”