Netanyahu’s coronavirus relief: A check to every Israeli

The prime minister announced that every citizen will receive a handout within 48 hours to help alleviate the economic hardship due to the pandemic.

By World Israel News Staff

In a press conference Wednesday evening at his office in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a handout of NIS 6 billion to help Israelis cope with the economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each citizen 18 years of age or over will receive NIS 750. Couples will get NIS 2,000. Families with two children will receive NIS 2,500, and those with three or more will get NIS 3,000.

Netanyahu promised that Israelis will see the money in their bank accounts within 48 hours, saying he wants to “quickly get it to all Israeli households.”

If the lawmakers spend time arguing about it, “it will take longer… We’ll never get it done,” he said. “We need to get the wheels moving and make sure nobody falls between the cracks.”

Last Thursday, Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz announced an economic plan, including an increase in the number of people eligible for unemployment benefits, grants for seniors, aid to self-employed workers and businesses, and tax breaks.

Israeli’s economy was thriving before the launch of the pandemic. As of Wednesday, the unemployment rate surged to 21 percent, up from 3.9 percent in February.

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“I hear your distress. You’re not alone,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu’s ratings have dropped significantly during the second wave of the pandemic. His announcement Wednesday was met with opposition from the Finance Ministry and the Blue and White party, among others.

“Any economic support for Israeli citizens is welcome, but it needs to be anchored in a responsible and long-term plan,” Blue and White said in a statement. “Regarding the grants, Blue and White supports directly transferring money to citizens, but this needs to be done with an emphasis on those whose livelihoods were hurt.”

Critics also included lawmakers from his own party. Likud MK Michal Shir tweeted that “there are many people who need the money, but thank God, in the State of Israel, there are also many who do not. I welcome the move, but citizens who do not need it should be allowed to give it up, so that the money goes to places that need it more.”

“Why do we have to give money to the rich?” asked United Torah Judaism party MK Moshe Gafni, head of the Knesset Finance Committee.

“We must get the economy running again. People are sitting at home, they aren’t consuming,” Netanyahu said in response to claims that not everyone who receives the funds needs the assistance. He explained that the handouts will help heal the economy by encouraging spending.

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“I welcome the newcomers to the socialist camp,” ridiculed Economy Minister Amir Peretz, head of the Labor party.

“The grant is the right thing to do, and it’s right that it be universal,” said MK Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party. “It will give families money to spend on a shrinking economy and businesses that need it.”