The Israeli government agency responsible for paying unemployment benefits, the National Insurance Institute (NII), will not be able to meet the sudden, overwhelming number of applicants before Pesach due to the coronavirus crisis.
“Unfortunately and despite great efforts, we will not be able to meet the schedule and deliver the unemployment benefits,” NII director general Meir Spiegler was quoted by The Times of Israel as saying. He added, though that he hoped emergency stipends for children might be processed before Pesach.
“We usually handle 17,000 unemployment benefit requests every month, but we now have more than a million. This month, we will pay 700,000-800,000 advances of NIS 1,000-2,000 for workers who were put on leave. The systems are not built for more than that,” he said.
“The full unemployment benefit will be paid on April 12,” Spiegler said.
Meanwhile, the latest statistics were frightful. Almost a quarter of Israel’s workforce— 24.9 percent, 1,039,791—was reported as jobless on Friday by the National Employment Service.
On Sunday, the NES said that in Eilat, was the hardest-hit city economically, as employment touched 70 percent. The resort city depends heavily on tourism, which has been devastated by the pandemic, leaving hotels empty.
The cities with the next highest employment rates after Eilat were Beitar Illit and Nazareth, with 52.1% and 46.3% of workers out of jobs respectively.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week announced that families would receive a one-time payment of NIS 500 per child (approximately $140), up to the fourth child, ahead of Pesach. He also said that there would be stipends for the elderly, and that the payments would be approved via emergency legislation and deposited directly into bank accounts, with no bureaucratic red tape.
Emergency funding and other measures were being put in place as well to rescue businesses in the crisis, especially in the airlines and tourism sectors, but including small businesses and the self-employed as well.