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Biden: Administration Working to Help Holocaust Survivors

VP Joe Biden says the Obama administration is working to assist Holocaust survivors, many of whom live in poverty.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/12/2013, 6:15 AM

Vice President Joe Biden
Vice President Joe Biden
AFP/Getty Images/File

Vice President Joe Biden has announced that the Obama administration is working to help Holocaust survivors in the United States, many of whom live in poverty, according to The Associated Press (AP).

This is done by coordinating assistance, working with aid groups and using diplomatic means to help recover property confiscated during the Nazi era, the Vice President said.

Biden announced the effort this week in a speech to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The administration says 100,000 Holocaust survivors are in the United States, and 25 percent live below the poverty level.

Biden said, according to AP, that a “special envoy” to the Health and Human Services Department will help non-profit groups provide survivors with needed services, as will AmeriCorps and VISTA volunteers.

He said the administration will work with the World Jewish Restitution Organizations to help resolve property claims, especially in Eastern and Central Europe.

Last May, a bipartisan group of United Sates lawmakers introduced a bill that would facilitate assistance for Holocaust survivors.

The legislation would add survivors to a priority list for social services outlined in the Older Americans Act.

The sponsors of the initiative, called the RUSH Act (Responding to the Urgent needs of Survivors of the Holocaust), worked with members of the Jewish Federations of North America to develop the legislation, calling upon their expertise on this vulnerable community.

Holocaust survivors in Israel have also suffered from poverty and a shortage in financial aid.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid announced in May that he would support legislation to allow additional Holocaust survivors to receive home nursing care from the state. The program would cost the state tens of millions of shekels a year.

In April, Lapid announced that Israel will put another 100 million shekels per year toward care for Holocaust survivors. In total, an extra 400 million will go toward care for survivors until 2017.

Most recently, the German government agreed to expand its funding of home care for Holocaust survivors and relax eligibility criteria for restitution programs.

The agreement, which was reached after negotiations in Israel with the Claims Conference, will result in approximately $800 million in new funding for home care, including medicine and food, for Holocaust survivors from 2014 to 2017.

The funding will be received by 56,000 survivors in 46 countries. A third of these survivors – 22,000 – are Israelis.