Parliament will be drafting a bill requiring the government to notify beneficiaries of Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) that they have been deemed ineligible for the benefit, thus affording recipients the chance to challenge the decision before GMI is cut off.
On Tuesday, lawmakers and Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou agreed the current practice of presenting GMI recipients with a fait accompli – rescinding the benefit without prior notice – is unfair and creates more problems.
MPs will produce a legislative proposal where the relevant welfare service will be obligated to contact an individual in writing, informing of them of the reason for their GMI being earmarked to be rescinded – for instance where the government detects the person’s income or assets no longer make them eligible.
The individual will then be given a deadline to respond in writing and make their case.
“This will resolve many problems,” said MP Andreas Fakondis, chair of the House labour committee.
“Many beneficiaries are being inconvenienced once their GMI is cut off, and they scramble to file objections. It can take up to four, six, even eight months before the objection is processed and a decision made, and during this whole time the affected beneficiary has no income.”
Informing people in advance would also help reduce the current workload in examining and processing the objections filed.
Currently, it takes too long to examine objections to GMI rescissions because authorities need to check individuals’ bank balances and assets.
Emilianidou said the ministry plans to hire more qualified staff so that these objections can be processed faster.
Regarding the demands of people with disabilities, who complain that GMI still does not cover their needs, the labour minister pledged that once the National Health Scheme is fully rolled out (June 2020), the government will bring additional legislation placing greater emphasis on modes of supporting disabled people rather than on benefit payouts.
MPs have meantime come up with a slew of bills aimed at tweaking the GMI system. One provides that the benefit be made available to single-parent families with a child of Cypriot citizenship, and to Cypriot citizens who are under the currently designated legal age of applying for GMI.
Another will obligate welfare services to factor in any divestment of immovable or movable assets and/or financial assets taking place after August 1, 2017 (rather than the current cutoff date of January 1, 2014), for the purpose of determining an individual’s eligibility for GMI.
Introduced in 2014, GMI overhauled social welfare by bundling all welfare benefits into a single scheme, with the simultaneous creation of a universal welfare recipient registry to help weed out duplications and abuse of the system.