Cyprus Mail

Minister seeks power to deal with low income special cases

By George Psyllides
THE LABOUR ministry plans to submit a bill amending the law on guaranteed minimum income (GMI) to allow the minister to handle cases where people may face serious problems but do not meet all the eligibility criteria, lawmakers heard on Monday.
Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou said changes made by parliament to the original legislation, which allowed the minister to issue decrees whenever necessary, have created problems.
Removing the provision took away the minister’s power to help a unemployed mother of five because she owns immovable property worth over €100,000, Emiliandou told the House labour committee.
There are hundred of special cases, which cannot be dealt with because the minister or the cabinet do not have the right to issue decrees, she added.
To be eligible for GMI people must not have over €5,000 in the bank or own property worth more than €100,000 – excluding primary residences.
Emilianidou said she will soon submit legislation that will grant that power to the cabinet or a committee or other institution to grant GMI to ineligible applicants in need.
To date, 17,519 people who were not eligible for a state allowance before have applied for GMI, the minister said. The ministry has approved 5,620 while 6,392 were rejected either because of their bank deposits, the value of their immovable property, or their income exceeded the limit set by the law.
The ministry has asked 310 applicants to explain why assets or immovable property belonging to them had been transferred in the past 12 months. Information is also expected from 3,252 applicants.
Applications from other EU nationals reached 3,705, the committee heard, and they have been asked to prove they lived on the island continuously for five years.
The ministry has received a total of 71,538 applications, including 918 from third country nationals.
GMI was introduced last year, to replace the previous system of state allowance, which was easy to abuse.
Among the 21,195 applications submitted by state aid recipients, 1,221 cases were found to have bank deposits that exceeded the criteria set by the law.
Three cases had over €500,000, 29 had between €200,000 and €500,000, 94 had between €50,000 and €100,000, 170 between €25,000 and €50,000, 200 between €15,000 and €24,000, and 678 between €5,000 and €15,000.
However, the new system has been criticised as being overly complicated, causing the delays in processing applications.
The minister rejected charges from committee chairman, AKEL MP Andreas Fakontis that the GMI scheme had been a failure.
“It is not a delay but proper checking,” she said, adding that this administration had introduced a reform of the system.

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