The Jerusalem Post
Fear and uncertainty prevail as economic safety net payments end
The end of certain benefits for workers placed on unpaid leave on Thursday leaves many uncertain what the future holds for them as they lose their main source of income.
“I haven’t had work since last March, but my unemployment payment, which equaled 70% of my previous salary, has been deposited very reliably into my bank account every month until now,” said Avraham Saltoun. “I believe my payment for June will come in one time in the next two weeks, but I have no idea what will be for July.”
Saltoun, 55, was working in a real estate office when the pandemic began and has since taken various gigs as an independent computer technician.
“People ask me why I don’t get a job,” Saltoun said. “But the crisis has made it very difficult. At my age, the most sensible thing is to stay working independently. I’ve made a bit of money here and there, but nothing has been stable.
“I don’t know what will be, but I can’t make the type of money I need to support the family like this.”
The economic safety net plan, launched in the early months of the pandemic, came to an end June 30. Some say the plan essentially offered a paid vacation for the unemployed, with many choosing to enjoy their freedom as long as they could.
Finance Minister Avigdor
Liberman has taken a hardline approach, saying that from July, benefits would be much more limited, with no unemployment benefits or grants to people under 45. Many have applauded him for his approach to reopening the economy, but some stand to get badly hurt by the plan.
Jo Lane, a Jerusalem-based English-speaking tour guide who made aliyah from Wales 18 years ago, thinks it is “fairly absurd” that her unemployment benefits are being cut off while Israel’s skies are still closed to overseas tourists. Previously, the Tourism Ministry had hoped to start letting in visitors from the beginning of July, but the government recently pushed that date back to August, at the earliest.
“Tours stopped at the end of March 2020, and it took a few months before we began to understand this would be here for a long time,” Lane said, “I have three young kids, and they have been out of school more than they were in for most of the year. I feel grateful for the government grants I received, but for me and most tour guides, they covered only a fraction of our previous salaries.
“I would have loved to take a different job, but between the kids, their quarantines, and the uncertainty, I couldn’t. I did take a course to be an English tutor because I wanted something to fall back on, but during the summer, people don’t need that.
“I wrote a post on Facebook addressed to MK Liberman asking for advice about what I should
do now. I can understand doing this if tourism was restarting, but cutting off financial support without providing an alternative is fairly absurd. I’m fully booked for tour groups from September, but I don’t know what I will do until then.”
Relief may be on the way. Over the past month, the Moreshet Derech organization has been protesting in front of the Knesset to reinstate benefits for tour guides. In the wake of their protests, the Knesset Finance Committee decided Tuesday to make an exception to continue benefits for tour guides over 67. A decision for guides under 45 will be made
“We need a plan to allow tour guides to get unemployment benefits,” said Chana Koren, a member of the group and a licensed tour guide. “Most guides are self-employed, and therefore have only been eligible for business grants, not unemployment. This needs to change.”
“There are thousands of tour guides that are scared for their families,” Koren continued, saying she knows some who are having trouble putting food on the table. “Some have found temporary jobs, but I’m already at retirement age. I should find something new?”