Greece to pay anti-poverty benefits from June

GMT 18:30 2015 Tuesday ,14 April

Arab Today, arab today Greece to pay anti-poverty benefits from June

A homeless man sleeps in central Athens
Athens - AFP

Benefits promised by Greece's new radical leftist government to support those who have fallen into poverty as the country carries out EU-IMF imposed reforms will be paid beginning in June, an official said Tuesday.

Some 30,000 households will receive between 70 and 220 euros ($75 to $235) a month to support their housing costs, while 300,000 will receive a similar amount to subsidise food purchases, said Theano Fotiou, the senior official in charge of social solidarity.

Greece's radical Syriza party pushed the social safety net legislation, part of the platform that led it to power in January elections, through parliament last month despite apparent pressure from the EU to drop the measures.

The legislation was supported by lawmakers from across the political spectrum, but Greece is facing a liquidity crisis that has left markets wondering whether it will be able to meet payments for existing social benefits and wages on top of international bailout loan repayments.

The benefits, estimated to cost 220 million euros, will be "exclusively financed by cuts to the operating expenses of ministries," said deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas.

The law also envisages restoring electricity service to the poorest of households that had been disconnected and offering them 300 kilowatt hours per month.

Applications for benefits will be accepted from April 20, with the first payments to be made in June.

Despite two bailouts worth up to 240 billion euros, six years of recession wiped a fifth off the Greek economy with many people seeing their wages slashed or being thrown out of their jobs.

The Greek government is currently locked in tense negotiations with the EU and IMF on a list of reforms it must carry out to unlock the remaining 7.2 billion euros of bailout loans.

Without the funds there are concerns that Greece will not be able to repay bailout loans coming due and other debt, which could lead it down a path that results in it leaving the eurozone.

While its international creditors have been sceptical of Greece's ability to finance additional social benefits, many Greeks find them disappointing compared with Syriza's campaign promises.

Fotiou said the measures "were first steps" and that the government had not ruled out using 330 million euros in EU funds for further anti-poverty measures.

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