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Cyprus

Expanding eligibility for guaranteed minimum income

By Elias Hazou

THE GOVERNMENT has prepared legislation that relaxes some of the criteria for Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) so that more people can become eligible for it.

Speaking at parliament on Monday, Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou said the tweaks to the GMI law have to do with the value of a person’s immovable property, deposits held in blocked amounts for minors, scholarships, as well as some other “financial data”.

But the eligibility criterion regarding bank deposits would remain as is, Emilianidou pointed out, adding that the government views GMI as the ultimate safety net for financially vulnerable people.

The changes, which would raise the cost of the assistance scheme, are possible because public finances are now in better shape, the minister said.

The bill is to be tabled to parliament on Thursday, and lawmakers intend to pass the amendments before the summer recess.

AKEL MP Andreas Fakondis, who chairs the House labour committee, said that although some of the government’s amendments are positive, overall they do not significantly alter the eligibility criteria for GMI.

In addition to relaxing property criteria, the definition of disabled persons has also been improved.

The government, however, is against an AKEL proposal that would allow low-income pensioners who did not file a GMI application on time, to do so now.

According to Fakondis, the labour ministry is concerned that these persons may in the meantime have deliberately transferred or sold off their homes in a bid to become eligible for the assistance.

But the concerns are unwarranted, Fakondis said, because these late applicants would be vetted according to their financial status at the time the original law came into force.

The parties themselves have drafted a series of legislative proposals. They say that many of the current GMI criteria are too strict.

To be eligible for GMI people must be Cypriot citizens over 28. They must not have over €5,000 in the bank or own property worth more than €100,000 – excluding primary residences.

Other EU and third country nationals are also eligible under certain conditions, one being continuous and legal residence in Cyprus for five years.

GMI was introduced last year, replacing the previous system of public assistance allowance.

Since its introduction, authorities have examined 39,498 applications – 17,144 from Cypriots requesting assistance, 20,675 from state aid recipients, 641 from other EU citizens, and 1,038 from third country nationals, including political refugees and victims of trafficking.

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