Czech government approves one-off 5,000-crown COVID-19 bonus for senior citizens

The bill, criticized by some as a pre-election bribe, still needs to be passed by Czech parliament and signed by the president

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 02.09.2020 15:21 (updated on 02.09.2020)

Prague, Sept 2 (CTK) – The Czech government has approved a bill under which people who receive old-age, disability, and widow’s and widower’s pensions will get an additional 5,000 crowns in December, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) told a press conference today.

The cabinet of the ANO party and the Social Democrats (ČSSD) had a brief video conference meeting today that only dealt with this bill.

The bill still needs to be passed by parliament and signed by the president to become law.

About 2.9 million people may get the one-off contribution in the Czech Republic, which has 10.6 million inhabitants. It would cost about 14.5 billion crowns from the state budget.

The opposition has criticized this step as bribing voters before autumn elections.

The Labor Ministry said pensioners should get the contribution because of the relative decrease in the average pension compared to the average salary in the last few years, the impact of the pandemic on their income, and the social situation of pensioners amid uncertain developments.

But economists questioned the contribution and said pensioners did not see any decrease in their income due to the coronavirus pandemic, unlike many other people.

Originally, Babiš argued that pensioners would get the extra money because the restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 were stressful for them, while the ČSSD say they should receive the money because the prices of goods went up and the elderly were affected by it more than other groups.

ANO and the ČSSD, which form a minority government, agreed on the contribution last Friday.

The 2020 state budget deficit was recently increased from an original 40 billion crowns to a record-high 500 billion crowns as a step to help face the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Babiš said last week ANO and ČSSD decided that it is better to pay out a one-off contribution within this year’s budget, when there is the money needed for it.

At first, the government was considering a higher increase in monthly pensions as of next year, but this would mean a permanent increase in the expenses, while the one-off contribution would influence only the 2020 budget.