Almost 92,500 families have received the first of two additional cost-of-living benefits that they have become entitled to as a result of the Budget 2024. This payment, which covers the period from 1st January to the end of June, will put almost €15 million in the pockets of Maltese and Gozitan families earning less than the median income adjusted for the size of the family.
Thanks to the revision announced by the Finance Minister in the latest Budget speech, the number of those eligible for this benefit has almost doubled. In addition to the nearly 92,500 families who have already received the first payment, the Department of Social Security has announced that there are around 3,000 pending cases that have not yet been given the payment due because there is some missing information on their income at the Commissioner for Revenue. In this light, the Department has appealed to these families to regularise themselves so that their payment could also be made.
When all payments are finalised, including the second instalment in May covering the second half of the year, Government support will in total have reached about €30 million. To understand the extent of this new benefit introduced by the Government, suffice it to think that it will be equal to the sum spent on supplementary assistance, a benefit that has been in place for years.
More than four out of 10 families in Malta will qualify for the benefit, with the Opposition arguing that this is evidence of how much poverty has increased. In fact, in the new way this benefit has been designed, there are families earning up to €40,000 who will qualify as long as they are composed of four or more members. This threshold is an income far more than considered to be the poverty threshold. It is, however, an income that is still below the average median income adjusted for this type of family.
Statistics provided by the Department of Social Security show that, for nearly 38,000 single persons, for example widows/widowers, who received this benefit, the amount ranged from €100 to €378. For almost 18,000 couples, mostly pensioners, the benefit ranged from €272 to €757. Finally, for around 37,000 families with children who received this benefit, the amount ranged from a minimum of €272 up to a maximum of €1,500. The precise amount to which one is entitled depends on family income (with more generous payments for those most in need) and on the number of family members (with large families being given greater support).
Studies published this year have indicated that, even as previously designed, when it reached half the people it will reach now, this benefit had a substantial impact on the numbers of those at risk of poverty. It is expected that, with the renovated scheme, the impact of the benefit on poverty, especially among the elderly, will be much stronger.
Photo: Kampus Production