Low-income pensioners continue to struggle financially, main opposition Akel said on Tuesday, proposing tweaks to the law that in their view would ameliorate the situation.
Following a discussion in parliament, Akel MP Andreas Fakondis said it is taking too long to process applications for the so-called ‘small cheque’.
This is particularly true of low-income pensioners who in 2014 became ineligible to apply for Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) for having failed to file a new application on time.
Another problem for this category of low-income pensioners is that their applications are being assessed as if they were filed up until November 30, 2014.
“Meaning that the income criteria used are those for the year 2014, when interest rates on deposits were very high,” Fakondis said.
“Many of these applications, which are being rejected, if they were now assessed based on the income of the following years – 2015, 2016 and 2017 – would meet the criteria and the applicants would become eligible.”
Low-income pensioners are asking that, having since been allowed to apply anew (in cases where their first application was rejected), their new application be examined based on the income criteria for the previous year, as is the case for first-time applicants.
According to the MP, the ministry of labour has pledged to review Akel’s suggestions and get back to them sometime in the next few weeks.
“Low-income pensioners are a vulnerable group, and the government should see to it that they receive every possible assistance so that they may live in dignity,” Fakondis said.
In January this year, the cabinet decided to increase the allowance by an additional €20 to €50, depending on the income bracket.
On GMI, Akel are asking that from now on the amount disbursed is adjusted for inflation.
They also want the law amended so that it spells out specific circumstances where a person eligible for GMI is deemed as voluntarily unemployed.
In many cases, Akel said, there are objective reasons why persons eligible for the assistance decline to perform a certain job proposed to them – for example, the workplace is too far from where they live.