Madrid, May 29 (efe-epa).- The Spanish government on Friday approved a guaranteed minimum income program to help some 850,000 disadvantaged households.
Around 2.3 million Spaniards at risk of poverty could benefit from the scheme, roughly half of them children.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in a tweet: “A country doesn’t prosper if a section of society is left behind. Today, the cabinet has approved the guaranteed minimum income, a historic measure in our democracy, a new pillar of the welfare state that will make Spain a more equal country.”
The payments will vary between 461 to 1,100 euros ($500-1,200) and will be tailored to a family’s situation depending on income assessment, marital status and whether or not the household includes children.
It is set to cost the state 3 billion euros, should it pass the scrutiny of lawmakers in Parliament.
Sánchez, leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE), the senior coalition partner in government, said similar programs had already been unveiled in European nations.
He said it would benefit four of every five families living in extreme poverty.
The coalition government, composed of the PSOE and left-wing party Unidas Podemos, had studied the guaranteed minimum income scheme for months but its approval by the cabinet was expedited by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The deadly outbreak, which has killed more than 27,000 people in Spain, and the ensuing lockdown to contain it sparked a sharp increase in unemployment and poverty.
According to the Bank of Spain, some 12 million people, around a quarter of the Spanish population, were at risk of poverty before the pandemic.
The income scheme, which will pay out to claimants monthly, will complement similar programs managed on a regional level.
People between the ages of 23 and 65, or from the age of 18 for young parents, will be eligible for the program, which is set to make its first payments in late June, with roughly 100,000 households automatically receiving funds without having to apply.
It will provide a salary of around 10,000 euros on average, Spain’s minimum income is fixed at 1,108 euros per month, equating to 13,000 euros a year if an employee receives 12 monthly payments.
Spain’s already shaky economy has been hit hard by the draconian lockdown enforced to stem the spread of coronavirus.
In the first quarter of 2020, Spanish GDP contracted by 5.2 percent compared to the previous quarter.
The government forecasts a 9.2 percent contraction this year and has warned that a rebound is not likely until next year.
From Monday around 70 percent of the population will be in phase two of the government’s four-stage easing of the confinement measures, which all but paralized economic activity when it came into effect on 14 March.
The country’s most populous cities, the capital Madrid and Barcelona, will remain in phase one for at least another week.
Spain has stabilized the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, which at its peak between late March and April caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of new infections every day.
There was only one death reported nationwide on Thursday and just 38 the previous week following a recount of data by the health ministry.