Supporting Citizens during COVID-19

In the wake of COVID-19, Israel faced simultaneous health, economic, and social crises.

At 121, we set to work researching and formulating complementary government proposals to ensure that all Israeli citizens receive the support they need during this difficult time.

These are our proposals:

Credit: Shlomi Yosef

1. A new program to support the unemployed

In responses to proposals made by various government ministries regarding the continued payment of unemployment benefits, we – together with our partners – formulated an alternative proposal for supporting the unemployed.

Dozens of social change organizations, representing diverse population groups, joined together and created the “Headquarters for Employment Advancement”. 

We formulated and presented to the Bennett-Lapid government an employment policy that creates immediate incentives for returning to work for those who can, along with assistance in creating better employment opportunities for those who need them. 

This is an effective alternative to cutting unemployment benefits.

We demand

  1. Reaching all unemployed people: Checking the background and employment options of all those who are registered as job seekers, and providing job offers that match their skills and abilities, or professional training that will help them integrate into the workforce. Those who have no relevant job offers or training programs must continue to receive unemployment benefits.

     

  2. Formulation and implementation of an urgent government program to support the employment of people aged 67 years and older: Until this program has been implemented, to significantly expand the services and support currently provided, including offering financial incentives to private employers, creating public service positions for this age group, and encouraging and supporting initiatives for employing senior citizens.

     

  3. Permanent lifting of ban on double benefits: Unemployed recipients of government benefits (i.e. disability, pension, income support, etc) should receive full unemployment benefits.

  4. Full unemployment benefits for participants in vocational training programs: Cancelling the offset of 30% in unemployment benefits for participants in vocational training programs.
Credit: Vehadarta

2. Appropriate compensation for senior workers who lose their jobs

Prior to the pandemic, there were 150,000 workers aged 67 or older. They are not entitled to unemployment benefits. 

Those who have been dismissed or furloughed in the wake of the pandemic are only entitled to a senior citizen benefit of 2,300 NIS ($715) a month. 

58% of these workers have no private pension income; in many cases, losing their jobs leads to poverty and insecurity.  

Our advocacy, including a successful public campaign in which 8,500 people from across the country emailed the Prime Minister and relevant ministers, led to the government decision to provide a monthly grant of 4,000 NIS ($1,250) to these unemployed workers, for the period from March 2020 until October 2021.

We demand

To significantly expand the services and support currently provided, including offering financial incentives to private employers, creating public service positions for seniors, encouraging and supporting initiatives for employing senior citizens, and extending the validity of the government grants.

Credit: Vehadarta

3. Permanent ban on double benefits

We campaigned together with 24 other civil society organizations, and hundreds of activists, to demand unemployment benefits for people who’d been dismissed from their jobs in the wake of COVID-19. 

These people were recipients of disability, old age, and income supplement benefits. Due to a ban on double benefits, they were not receiving full unemployment pay even though they needed it the most. 

As a result of our campaigning and advocacy, the government issued a temporary order early on in the COVID-19 crisis that lifted the ban on double benefits until December 2021. 

This directly affected the income of tens of thousands of citizens who were at risk of falling into poverty.

We demand

Permanent lifting of ban on double benefits: Unemployed recipients of government benefits (i.e. disability, pension, income support, etc) should receive full unemployment benefits.

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