The government’s amendment of the 500+ program envisages several major changes. First of all, ZUS will take care of its services – accept applications from parents, consider them and pay money to parents. The government explained that it is about savings and in 10 years the costs of the program will be 3.1 billion PLN lower.
However, there is the other side of the coin – today, applications over 500+ are considered by local governments that have hired staff specifically for this task. As labor unions appreciate, the Social Insurance Institution’s takeover of the program means that many people in city and municipal offices will have to be fired. Currently, the program serves exactly 11,934 people. Their release means that severance payments and benefits must be financed – in the amount of about PLN 72 million – according to OPZZ’s calculation.
Changes at 500+. Senate debate
Senators have made reference to this argument. Local government officials can not only help accept applications and pay benefits, but also check how those benefits are spent and, in some cases, convert cash payments into benefits, services, or in-kind. Municipal residents are accustomed to the place where they carry out this task, and it is very close to them, because when it comes to one of the state programs that are already recognized among all, that is, 500+, they know who to turn to in case of difficulties in filling out the application. We are changing the rules of the game overnight, because in 2.5 months. Everything that has been good so far suddenly stops being good – KO’s Senator Magdalena Kochan explained. Senators asked how ZUS, which pays pensions, family and tourist benefits and more than 300 coupons, would handle the program, which now has nearly 12,000 employees.
Changes at 500+. The Senate decision will affect some families
On Friday, the Senate rejected the government’s bill by a majority vote. Senators who want to prevent officials from being fired, and too many families to avoid complications in filing, will make it impossible for thousands of families to reform the program.
Although the program is popular, there are still a large number of families who cannot take advantage of the 500+ program. This is the case when one parent works abroad and the other lives in the country with their children. It turns out that offices for months or even years are able to turn over the paperwork to determine who should pay the money to this family for the children – whether it is a foreign institution or Poland. The procedure looks like this: the parent submits an application in Poland for 500+, then officials check with foreign offices to see if this benefit is no longer paid in another country. Only that such foreign institutions themselves often are in no hurry to provide such information.
Changes at 500+. Does the House of Representatives reject the resolution?
It was government reform that was supposed to change the situation. The Polish 500+ award is supposed to be awarded first to each child. If the parent works in another country, they can receive compensation from a foreign institution. Government accounts show that up to 25,000 per year. Children under the age of 500 can finally get this benefit.
The government reform also assumes that all parents will have to apply online for a 500+ in 2022 and the money will only be paid to a bank account. Does this mean that these rules are eventually lost? No, the bill will now go back to the House of Representatives, which may reject the Senate’s decision. For this, however, an absolute majority of votes is needed.
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