Social aid agencies get €15 million extra from government
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    Social aid agencies get €15 million extra from government

    © Virginie Lefour - Belga

    Municipal social aid agencies are to receive €15 million in additional funding from the federal government, the extended meeting of ministers decided on Saturday.

    The decision comes after a decision by Brussels Region on Friday to grant the agencies (CPAS/OCMW) in the region – one in each of the 19 municipalities – €30 million in funding.

    Helping and supporting people facing social and health difficulties is an essential objective of this significant amount of money made available by the Brussels government,” said Alain Maron, minister for social action in Brussels.

    On the federal aid, the local authority associations for the three regions last week wrote to prime minister Sophie Wilmès to plead the case for the need of emergency aid “to avoid a bloodbath”.

    One of their main points was that the people who have called on the agencies for help are not and never were the kind of people who had a buffer to see them through tough times. When difficulties arise, they are the most vulnerable.

    The amount of the aid was determined by the federal ministry for social integration, under minister Denis Ducarme (MR). It is intended to provide an income for anyone who has lost their job and is thus unable to pay rent, energy bills, school costs or insurance.

    It also covers students who are on benefits, but now need special materials to take their exams.

    The ministers also decided to extend the system of seasonal working to those on benefits. That was previously agreed for those on temporary unemployment or the self-employed whose businesses were obliged to shut down by the lockdown restriction, allowing them to take up jobs in seasonal work such as fruit-picking, without the loss of benefits.

    Ducarme, together with labour minister Nathalie Muylle (CD&V) stressed to their colleagues that more aid measures are in preparation.

    The extended council of ministers which meets to discuss matters relating to the coronavirus crisis includes not only government ministers, but also representatives of parties not in government. The change was part of the agreement whereby parties would support the existing caretaker coalition with special powers to cope with the crisis.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times