A new NIS 1 billion national program to provide assistance to Holocaust survivors will be submitted for Knesset approval in two weeks, it was announced Sunday.
The budget will be added to the NIS 835 million in funding that Finance Minister Yair Lapid has already allotted for Holocaust survivors aid for the next five years, the Finance Ministry said. Lapid and Welfare Minister Meir Cohen will ask the government to bring the amendments to a vote within the next 30 days, so that they can be approved at the next Knesset meeting.
One major part of the plan includes an increase in the minimum allowance given to some 90,000 Holocaust survivors, from NIS 1,825 to NIS 2,200 a month. The maximum allowance will remain at NIS 5,400. Some NIS 166 million will be allocated to fund this increase.
Holocaust survivors hold protest in front of Knesset in January (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
As part of the plan, NIS 130 million will be allocated towards Holocaust survivors' payments for medicine. In addition, the survivors will receive a 100 percent discount on pharmaceutical products added to the basket of health services, in comparison to a 50 percent discount that they receive today.
"The State of Israel has a historical debt to Holocaust survivors and our mission is to ensure their comfort during the last years of their lives," said the finance minister.
Cohen added that "this is the most important and significant amendment the State of Israel has made for Holocaust survivors. The State has owed this amendment to the thousands of survivors who constitute the important foundation for the establishment of the country."
In addition, about 80,000 survivors who immigrated to Israel after 1953 and are not veterans of death camps will receive an annual allowance of NIS 3,600. Up until now, the survivors among this group were entitled to a reimbursement of NIS 4,000 every two years for dental care and eyeglasses, provided that they present receipts and documentation. Some 9,000 more survivors will receive an annual grant of NIS 2,000.
The program also calls to compare the conditions of some 18,000 Holocaust survivors who arrived to Israel after 1953 to the conditions of survivors who arrived in the country prior to that date. With the approval of the program, these survivors, who have until today received an allowance of NIS 1,500-1,800 per month, will be granted a monthly allowance of NIS 1,825-5,400.
Another item in the plan calls to provide a monthly grant of NIS 2,000 to spouses of Holocaust survivors who have passed, beginning from the fourth year of death. The Finance Ministry estimated that the cost of this benefit would be approximately NIS 65 million annually.
According to the plan, the standards for the "income test" for Holocaust survivors will change to exclude the NIS 55 million allowances paid by the Holocaust Survivors Authority. As of today, the nursing allowance provided by Bituach Leumi (The National Insurance Institute) is in accordance with the income test to which an elderly citizen is subject.
After the plan is approved, allowances paid to Holocaust survivors will not be considered as income for entitlement to nursing benefits. In addition, budgets for welfare programs and psychological treatment will be increased by NIS 70 million.