JERUSALEM — Against the backdrop of the severe economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Israel’s Ministry of Social Affairs and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) have set up emergency funds in 140 municipalities across the country. The funds will help local welfare departments provide immediate assistance to families and elderly individuals in financial distress due to coronavirus restrictions. The financial assistance covers a variety of needs including food, medicine, essential appliances, clothing, and basic furniture.
The emergency funds total $1.74 million, enough to grant each individual up to $580 and each family up to $1,160. Ministry employees will determine the amount dispensed in each case. Nearly $1.45 million was provided by the Ministry of Social Affairs while The Fellowship, which will help assist the authorities in carrying out operations, raised $290,000 in donations for the initiative.
The funds were set up shortly after social affairs reported an alarming increase of 68% in the number of requests for financial assistance throughout Israel. In addition, a recent survey conducted by the Geocartography Institute on behalf of The Fellowship indicated the magnitude of the economic hardship felt by large portions of the public. According to the survey, 21% of respondents said that their household income has depreciated by at least half. Approximately 40% said that they had difficulty paying for routine expenses such as food, bills, and rent.
Israel’s Minister of Social Affairs, Itzik Shmuli, said: “The coronavirus crisis has made the plight of the vulnerable populations in Israel even greater. The budget that we and The Fellowship have provided for local authorities will enable a quick and effective response to the immediate economic hardships of these populations without having to go through bureaucratic hurdles.”
Yael Eckstein, President and CEO of The Fellowship, said: “When coronavirus broke out, it was clear that we were dealing with a crisis we were unfamiliar with. We immediately responded by providing food for tens of thousands of elderly people and purchased life-saving equipment for hospitals. The health crisis has somewhat abated, but the economic emergency is still at its peak. Now our main task, in coordination with the Ministry of Social Affairs and municipalities, is to help families and elderly people who are financially impacted by the coronavirus restrictions. We thank Minister Shmuli and the staff at the ministry for their tremendous cooperation as well as the social sensitivity they have shown during this difficult time towards the most vulnerable populations.”