By Elias Hazou
PEOPLE with fat bank accounts, as well as owners of immovable property worth hundreds of thousands, were among those applying for guaranteed minimum income (GMI), labour minister Zeta Emilianidou said on Tuesday.
Speaking on CyBC radio, Emilianidou revealed that authorities had received several applications from persons with up to €1m in their bank accounts, or owning property valued at over €200,000.
These were of course rejected, she said.
Of the some 16,000 application forms filed by first-time applicants, the ministry has approved 4,000 and payments have been made to these persons.
In a statement, the ministry said that a further 200 applicants would have received payment by yesterday.
Up until December 1, 16,200 GMI applications were filed by Cypriot citizens: currently out of work, long-term unemployed, low income earners and self-employed.
Authorities have meanwhile turned down around 4,800 applications, for not complying with basic eligibility criteria: value of immovable property, bank deposits, and income.
According to Phileleftheros, ministry checks identified 46 households where the owners possessed property worth over €1m. There were also at least three cases where applicants were found to have between €500,000 and €1m in their bank accounts.
Authorities were also able to verify that a number of self-employed people falsely claimed to be jobless, or stated an income lower than the real one.
These reported cases likely reflect the more egregious claims. There is no hard line on eligibility in terms of income levels for the GMI – whether one is entitled to the allowance, and how much, depends on a variety of factors, including whether or not he has a mortgage or pays rent, the number and age of dependents, the individual’s net worth, and even the total area of his or her home. Thus, two people receiving identical monthly wages may find their respective applications treated differently.
In theory, anyone could be eligible provided he or she does not have over €5,000 in cash or own property worth more than €100,000 – excluding primary residences.
The labour ministry said that of those applications rejected for not meeting property criteria, 57.5 per cent owned property valued at between €200,000 and several millions.
Moreover, among the claims disallowed on bank account criteria, 37 per cent of these applicants were found to have deposits of between €25,000 and €1m.
And 43 per cent of the cases rejected for not meeting income conditions were found to be earning monthly wages between €2000 and €5000.
Additionally, processing of approximately 6,000 applications has been put on hold due to missing or incomplete information, such as bank confirmation of deposits, wrong IBAN and so forth.
The ministry said it would be contacting these applicants.
An applicant must supply confirmation of permanent residence by local authorities, proof and justification of any change in income levels over the last six months, mortgagees must provide a copy of their mortgage agreement and a current interest statement, and those who rent a home must submit a copy of the tenancy agreement.
Personal banking information must be accompanied by confirmation of its accuracy by the bank itself. Copies of identity cards, bank account statements for all involved (applicant and dependents) since January 1, 2014, and employer confirmation of monthly salary, are only some of the items on the list. Self-employed applicants are required to submit additional documentation, and non-Cypriot applicants yet more.
Authorities are also checking applications by existing beneficiaries of state assistance (21,500) and low-income pensioners (38,000).
Earlier this month, Emilianidou conceded that over half of the 16,000 first-time applicants would not receive aid in time for Christmas.
Parliament subsequently passed a law making a person eligible to receive GMI effective from the date of filing the application rather than the date of the application’s approval. Persons whose applications are eventually approved will thus receive payments retroactively.
GMI was introduced this year, to replace the previous system of state allowance, which was easy to abuse. However, the new system has been criticised as being excessively complicated, causing the delays in processing applications.