Throwing Israelis with disabilities a lifeline -but what’s next?

Two thirds of the people living with disabilities have lost their jobs in the corona economic fallout. We must find jobs for them. Op-ed.

Rabbi Chaim Perkal ,

Unemployment
Unemployment
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Last week, Finance Minister Israel Katz announced an expansion of the Disability Grant Law, which provides annual grants to families who have children with disabilities.

The Israeli government is scheduled to pay one billion shekels to the parents of children with disabilities, via two grants, one of which will be received by the end of October and the other in December.

The amount of the grant is dependent upon level of disability - for children designated as having 100 percent disability, the family will receive 2,280 shekels for each payment.

Earlier in October, the Finance Ministry authorized the payment of 940 million shekels in grants to 261,000 Israeli adults living with disabilities.

These two generous decisions are slated to help hundreds of thousands of Israelis get back on their feet. I commend the Finance Ministry's willingness to make this funding happen, especially in such uncertain times.

All in all, the Israeli government is dishing out almost two billion shekels in grants for the benefit of people with disabilities. This is a much-needed lifeline and an undoubtedly important step in providing emergency aid to those who've fallen upon hard times.

But while emergency grants are an important tool, we must think further ahead. Stopgap measures are not enough to ensure the future welbeing of Israelis living with disabilities.

It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has crushed the Israeli economy, with small business owners and those working in the hospitality, restaurant, and event industries bearing the brunt of the burden.

A report published by the Central Bureau of Statistics predicts that nearly one in five small businesses (19 percent) will fail by December. Almost one million Israelis remain out of work.

And people living with disabilities have been hit especially hard by the economic fallout.

In September, the State Audit Committee revealed that 66% of Israeli workers with disabilities were either fired or laid off from their jobs since March, a rate four times higher than the general working population.

This situation – two out of three workers with disabilities losing their jobs - is particularly dire when we consider that before the pandemic, only 57 percent of adult Israelis with disabilities worked.


The National Insurance Institute and Social Services Ministry offer a number of tax breaks and financial benefits to encourage employers to hire people with disabilities. Perhaps we should consider making these financial rewards for employers more remunerative.
We must focus on the big picture of Israel's economic recovery. Grants are an effective tool for helping people out of a bind, but I believe long term employment opportunities are what will secure the future of Israelis with disabilities.

A major challenge is that the job market is now more competitive than ever before. How can unemployed people with disabilities find their way back into the workforce?

The National Insurance Institute and Social Services Ministry offer a number of tax breaks and financial benefits to encourage employers to hire people with disabilities.

We must make sure that knowledge of these incentives reaches employers. Perhaps we should consider making these financial rewards for employers more remunerative.

It's important to note that there are a significant number of Israelis with disabilities who are unable to work. They will continue to contribute to their communities and families in unique ways, and should receive stipends from the government that provide for a dignified life.

But for those Israelis with disabilities who are able to work, the focus must be on making sure that they can find steady and security employment, rather than periodically scraping together funds for emergency hand-outs.

As the father of two children with disabilities and the head of an organization serving people with special needs, I commend the government for its follow-through on the grants.

It's a critical first step that helps Israelis in acute financial distress. I ask, however, that we move beyond emergency mode, and begin planning for the road ahead.

Rabbi Chaim Perkal is the Director and Founder of Alei Siach, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit organization providing all-inclusive solutions for people living with special needs and their families.



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