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THE RUNDOWN | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a new financial rescue plan worth an estimated NIS 70 billion ($20.3 billion) in order to help small businesses and independent freelancers survive the economic fallout from the coronavirus.
Speaking from the Prime Minister’s Office Jerusalem alongside Finance Minister Israel Katz, Netanyahu also said that Israelis who are currently out of work, thought to hover over 800,000, will receive unemployment benefits until June 2021.
“I hear your stress, I hear your cries,” the premier said during his remarks to the media.
Netanyahu, who has come under growing scrutiny over his handling of the resurgent coronavirus, said that small business owners should expect the arrival of NIS 7,500 ($2,174) deposit in their bank account by next week.
Netanyahu said that Israel’s latest economic rescue plan will be based on three principles, which include providing certainty for the public and markets the coming year; quick transfer of government grants to the unemployed; and immediate government grants to independent business owners and freelancers.
Israel appeared to have the pandemic under control by the end of May, with the Health Ministry reporting only a few dozen a day at its lowest point, leading to a relaxing of coronavirus restrictions across all sectors of the economy.
But since then, Israel has seen a dramatic spike in the infection rate, which Netanyahu acknowledged was an “error” in government planning.
“Looking back, as part of the trial and error, we can say that the last step was too early,” the premier said, referencing the reopening of bars, gyms and event halls.
“In the first wave we had amazing success. The death toll was and remains very low. But the lockdown exacted a heavy toll on the economy,” he added.
Israel’s Health Ministry announced on Thursday that 1,262 cases of coronavirus cases and two additional deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours in Israel.
The latest data brings the total number of infected Israelis to 33,860, with at least 115 patients currently in serious condition. The number of deaths has risen to 346 since the start of the pandemic.