ROME (Reuters) - The Italian government on Thursday approved a new poverty relief scheme known as the “citizens’ income”, fulfilling a long-standing election promise of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, which governs with the far-right League.
Following are some of the main features of the scheme, which will launch in April:
The citizens’ income will cost state coffers 7.1 billion euros (6.23 billion pounds) this year, 7.8 billion in 2020 and 8.0 billion in 2021.
Eligibility depends on income, savings and property ownership. A single person living in rented accommodation with no income and minimal savings can receive a maximum of 9,360 euros per year, or 780 euros per month. Of this, 280 euros must be used for rent or 150 for a mortgage.
Someone who already has an income, but below 780 euros per month, will have it topped up to this threshold, which is considered the poverty line for a single person paying rent.
A family of two adults and a child in rented accommodation can receive up to 1,080 euros, while a family of two adults and three children can get up to 1,280 euros. Homeowners do not receive the standard rental contribution, which is 280 euros.
The money will be loaded onto a digital card at the start of each month, and expires at the end of the month if it has not been spent. Labour Minister Luigi Di Maio says this will ensure a boost to consumer spending and economic growth.
The benefit is not available to single people with savings over 6,000 euros or couples with savings over 8,000 euros, or those who own a second home worth more than 30,000 euros.
Non-EU immigrants must have lived in Italy for the last 10 years.
Recipients who are able to work must do eight hours’ community service per week, do any training courses proposed, and take one of the first three job offers that match their qualifications.
The citizen’s income can be received continuously for 18 months, after which it is suspended for one month and a new application must be submitted.
Anyone found guilty of trying to defraud the system will face up to six years in jail.
A company that hires someone on the scheme receives the citizens’ income that would have gone to the unemployed person for the remainder of the 18-month period. Hence a company that hires a person who has been on the scheme for two months will get the income for 16 months.
Recipients able to work must attend regular interviews at public job centres, where they are assigned an assistant, known as a “navigator”, who liaises with companies to help them find a job or a training course.
Reporting By Gavin Jones; Editing by Kevin Liffey