100,000 Try to Sign Up for Unemployment After Rules Relaxed

View of the National Insurance Institute offices in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The long list of people laid off because of coronavirus and the relaxation of conditions for receiving unemployment payments announced by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday night led more than 100,000 people to make an attempt to file for payments within 12 hours. Only 15,000 succeeded, although National Insurance (Bituach Leumi) officials insisted that all those who need to sign up will be able to do so.

Last week, the National Insurance Institute (NII) announced that it was more or less closing branches to the public, and that requests for stipends for medical, retirement, or unemployment insurance could be made by phone, online, or at National Insurance kiosks, many located in pharmacies.

On Monday night, Netanyahu announced that given the large number of people seeking unemployment relief, the NII would accept new applications for unemployment insurance online, and that the period of time an individual worked required to qualify for payments was reduced from a year to six months. The announcement led to a rush of applications, which quickly crashed the NII’s site. The site was brought back online, with limited numbers allowed later Monday night and Tuesday.

On a normal day, the NII gets between 500 and 700 applications for unemployment payments, so the current situation is a very challenging one, NII head Meir Shpiegler said. “After our online services crashed, the NII requested and received permission from the government to reduce the qualification period for unemployment payments and to reduce the bureaucratic process for filing. All services can be requested online and there is no need to come to NII branches. All payments will be made to all who qualify,” he added.

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