NGO: Middle Class Seeking Financial Help as Prices Rise

Paamonim, which helped 4,000 families last year, reports that 1,400 people contacted it in January and February alone this year - 60% more than during the corresponding months in 2011.

The number of middle-class households seeking help managing their debt and finances spiked sharply over the past few months, as electricity bills shot up, reported a nonprofit organization that helps households learn to manage their finances.

The Paamonim organization, which helped 4,000 families last year, reported that 1,400 people contacted it in January and February alone this year - 60% more than during the corresponding months in 2011.

David Bachar

Many of these people had household incomes of NIS 15,000 a month, which puts them in the seventh or eight decile - the middle or upper-middle class.

Generally, the organization is contacted by people considered "working poor," said director Uriel Lederberg.

The people contacting the group over the past few months by and large "display financial responsibility but are living within narrow margins. A price increase like what happened with electricity rates can destroy a family's efforts," he said.

Likewise, the increase in gas prices is causing many people to question whether it pays for them to work, he said.

"If someone says 'It doesn't pay for me to work,' my organization can't help them, the solution needs to come from the government," Lederberg said, noting that public transportation was not a suitable alternative for everyone.

The group, whose tagline is "taking responsibility," focuses on teaching participants to do just that.

"The social protest made people realize they need to take responsibility," he said. "People understood they need to help themselves before the government will help them."