By Elias Hazou
THE number of families relying on food banks is expected to drop considerably next month as the guaranteed minimum income (GMI) kicks in, a volunteerism official has forecast.
Yiannis Yiannaki, Commissioner for volunteering and NGOs, said he anticipates some 3,000 to 4,000 fewer families will need food aid once GMI begins being disbursed to households.
“This will be a brighter note amid the grim landscape caused by the economic crisis,” he told the Cyprus News Agency.
Yiannaki explained that the expected reduction will be due to a combination of factors: the government’s new welfare scheme, together with improved record-keeping.
The agencies are using software connecting all 55 food banks across the island. This is expected to put an end to overlaps, by preventing people from taking advantage of the lack of coordination between the organisations.
At last count, there were 12,500 families visiting food banks, down from 13,500 recorded previously.
The greatest decrease was in Famagusta-Larnaca and Paphos districts due to a rise in tourism-related seasonal work.
Noting that food banks are a temporary measure, Yiannaki expressed the hope that the number of needy people should gradually lessen as the economy recovers.
The first disbursements of GMI are expected in September. The deadline for the submission of applications by welfare recipients for the new scheme has been extended to September 1.
The minimum GMI allowance has been set at €480 per person per month, covering basic needs. In a household, the person’s spouse will receive an additional 50 per cent of the allowance (€240), while if the family has children aged below 14 years, it will receive an additional 30 per cent of the allowance (€144). The additional allowance increases to 50 per cent in case the children are above 14 years of age (€240).
Beyond that, applicants also qualify for assistance with rent and municipal taxes, and the payment of interest on housing loans for unemployed or financially struggling families.