By Elias Hazou
PARLIAMENT yesterday approved amendments to the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) legislation, slightly expanding the eligibility criteria for the assistance.
Until now a person was eligible for GMI if they had no more than €5,000 in cash or owned property worth more than €100,000 – excluding the primary residence.
Those conditions have been eased somewhat. Now the cash threshold has gone up to €20,000, provided that this amount is blocked to secure a loan, is deposited in the name of a minor, relates to a scholarship or a college loan, or belongs to a disabled person.
The €100,000 threshold for property is waived where the entire property or part of it cannot be transferred or sold due to encumbrances on it, for example a memo has been placed on the property.
Previously, a couple were eligible for GMI, if they owned a primary residence of up to 150 square metres, whereas a family could apply if they owned a house of up to 300 square metres.
Now, anyone with a house of up to 300 square metres can apply.
In addition, physically or mentally handicapped persons will no longer need a court order to declare them as incapacitated in order for a representative to file an application on their behalf.
Persons aged up to 28, who were under the care of the director of the welfare services can now also apply for GMI whether or not they are college students. The director of the welfare services will assess these applications on a case-by-case basis.
And a new category has been added for people facing particular circumstances, to be verified by welfare officers. For example, a mother who is neither a Cypriot nor an EU national but who has children from a Cypriot father, would now be eligible.
Adjustments have been made so that persons whose applications have yet to be processed, or have been rejected, do not need to re-apply from scratch, but file an appeal.
The deadline for filing appeals has been extended from 30 to 60 days.
The amended law allows the head of the Department of Lands and Surveys to back-check property transactions up to one year prior to the coming into force of the original GMI legislation.
This is to ensure abuse against the system, where persons might have sold or transferred property in the meantime in order to become eligible for GMI.
Another change sees a 20 per cent increase in the rent benefit to disabled persons, where the rent being paid is above the maximum provided in the legislation.
Moreover, people on low pensions who did not apply on time will be given another chance to do so, provided however that it can be verified that the reason they did not previously apply was due to insuperable obstacles.
The amendments are to enter into force on August 1.
GMI has come under severe criticism over delays in processing applications and disbursing the assistance.