By Elias Hazou
PARLIAMENT yesterday passed a law relaxing eligibility criteria for the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI), citing considerable delays in dispensing benefits to applicants.
Under an amendment to the core GMI law, persons on low pensions or incomes that are deemed insufficient for a decent standard of living, and who receive no other benefits, will be entitled to an allowance if their application for GMI has been rejected. It also applies to members of an applicant’s household.
This is provided the applicants meet certain, but not all, of the eligibility criteria for GMI.
AKEL MP Andreas Fakontis said the legal amendment was necessary, as a large cross-section of applicants for GMI are unable to meet the full gamut of criteria.
The state has received some 16,500 applications for GMI from long-term jobless people, low-income earners and self-employed. Of these, only 25 per cent or 4000 applications were approved, while 4000 more applications were rejected.
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.
After authorities realised that over half of the 16,000 first-time applicants would not receive aid in time for Christmas, parliament 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 last year, to replace the previous system of state allowance, which was easy to abuse. However, the new system has been criticised as being overly complicated, causing the delays in processing applications.
At the same time, because of the tighter checks authorities tracked people who were clearly ineligible to receive assistance but who filed anyway.
Authorities have found a number of applicants with deposits in their bank accounts running in the hundreds of thousands of euros; and at least two applicants were millionaires.