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Netanyahu, Katz’s ‘safety net’ NOT what it seems

The 2020-2021 Safety Net program of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz that was approved on Monday is meant to offer benefits to roughly one million Israelis who are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it seems earlier reports that indicated a first grant of up to NIS 7,500 were misleading due to the Israel Tax Authority basing the amount of aid on reported income from 2018.

Only 128,000 people received NIS 7,500. Some 136,000 Israelis received a sum ranging from NIS 3,000 to that figure, and some 116,000 persons received NIS 3,000 or less.

Netanyahu and Katz delivered on their promise to wire funds “at the press of a button,” but some people said they were low.

The Safety Net plan tied paying benefits until the end-date of June 2021 or until the country’s unemployment rate drops to 10% from what it currently is. There are two conflicting reports on what that figure might be.

Some 542,000 people are unemployed, or 16% of the workforce, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) reported Monday.

The Employment Service said 852,000 people are unemployed, or 21%.

The government said it would base its decision on the CBS figures.

There are shortcomings in the Netanyahu-Katz program, Stier Group president Israela Stier-Einstein told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the flow of tourism into the country nearly ended, and confusion about how the virus is spread led the country to close down all exhibitions, which are major events that showcase Israeli products and innovation to the outside world, she said, adding that these events are vital to the economy.

“How are we different from a museum?” Stier-Einstein asked. “Why are we not allowed to present options to keep us in business?”

Jacob Bacon, who founded Jerusalem-based GradTrain, said the plan overlooks the realities of start-up companies that have struggled to fundraise or build their products since the pandemic began.

GradTrain’s artificial-intelligence matching platform for higher education is used by students from more than 160 countries, Bacon told the Post on Monday.

“There is a misconception about hi-tech that all those who work in the field are extremely well off,” he said. “This is only partly true. Those who work for large companies enjoy such perks and job security. But those who set out to create their own business often invest their own savings into them, and in the years until it is proven to work, they will always prioritize their employees over themselves and may not even take a paycheck.”

“When my company is successful, the state will happily take it cut of the revenues and potential exit,” Bacon said.

“But when we need it, the state is not there to provide much needed support.”

Likud MK Nir Barkat told the Post: “You had tourism firms that made over NIS 100 million. Now they were forced to shut down and aren’t compensated, and there is no one to help them.”

Some hi-tech start-ups are securing funds even at a time like this, he said, adding that the state should do whatever it can to help, because such firms “are our future.”

Based on what had been reported so far about the planned budget, about the same amount of money for health will be spent this year, despite expenditures during the pandemic.

The Education Ministry’s budget has been cut from NIS 4.6 billion to NIS 3.1b.

Original: Hagay Hacohen – JPost