The new elections in Israel, called in the midst of the worst health and financial crises in Israel, leave in jeopardy many sectors, especially welfare and social services that is set to lose NIS 2.5 billion from its annual budget.
Israel headed into its fourth election campaign in two years at the stroke of midnight Tuesday, as the deadline for passing a state budget expired and the Knesset automatically dissolved by law.
If the parties do not reach an agreement on a bill outlining a state budget for 2021, welfare services look to lose up to 25% of its yearly budget, putting at risk the most vulnerable sectors of the Israeli society.
If the transitional government does agree on special legislation that would offer a "placeholder" budget, welfare services still expected to lose hundreds of millions from its annual funding.
"The meaning of the budget cuts is clear: unemployment figures will double and the entire welfare apparatus will be left decimated during one of the worst crises this country has ever known," said Labor and Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli.
"This is not a precise incision, but an amputation, with hundreds of welfare programs which are the last safety net for female victims of domestic abuse, poor elderly, children at risk, those handicapped or with special needs and families facing poverty," he said. "Any attempt right now to take money away from people on welfare is a crime and such a catastrophe will not stand."
The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services provides welfare services to over a million Israelis, with more than 200,000 receiving direct aid through various programs funded by the ministry.
One of the most dramatic outcomes of the expected budget cuts looks to be a drastic drop in open positions for social workers in training, at a time when there is a rise in domestic violence cases, sexual abuse reports and rise in addiction to harmful substances in the population.
According to latest data, out of 600 welfare positions in adult probation services, 120 are unmanned, while out of 500 posts in child probation services, 80 are unmanned.
"The budgetary deadlock Israel has experienced over the past year has brought a destructive evil to the welfare apparatus," said the head of the Social Workers Association, Inbal Harmoni.
"There is a severe lack of social workers in probation services, which leads to wrong decisions being made by courts due to a lack of reports," she said. "Without a social worker's survey, a man who hurt his family could be let go by the court and return to his home. On the other hand, a juvenile who could have been in sent to rehab is put in jail.
"The release of dangerous people back to their homes is a ticking timebomb, especially right now when reports of domestic violence are increasing in numbers. The government must pass a state budget as soon as it can, or the levels of violence and crime will explode in our faces."
Among the welfare programs that could be shut due to the lack of funding are aid program for 300 families of at-risk children, rehabilitation and vocational training for over 5,000 children at special boarding schools and 30 call centers servicing some 1,200 unprivileged families a year.
The elderly, who are the most at risk from the coronavirus pandemic, will also be hurt, with over 900 various social and aid centers, servicing over 11,000 elderly, are set to close if no budget legislation is passed.