Czech Interior Minister calls for housing benefits law to change, gives new interpretation of existing regulations
The current crisis around the disbursal of housing benefits to people living in residential hotels in the Czech Republic might have a surprisingly simple solution, at least temporarily. According to Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, a municipality's disagreement with the disbursal of benefits does not have to be considered a binding decision.
That would mean that the Labor Office can disburse the benefits despite municipal rejections. Chovanec, of course, considers the ideal solution to be the adoption of another amendment to the current law because its current interpretation in practice is so unclear.
Chovanec has now joined Czech Human Rights Minister Dienstbier and Prime Minister Sobotka, who recently called the present form of the law unacceptable and demanded it be updated. The Interior Minister explained his perspective on the issue in a letter to his cabinet colleague, Czech Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová.
"The legislation does not expressly establish that [municipal consent or rejection] should be a binding stance. That is why I am of the opinion that it is possible to consider the agreement of a municipality to be a communication per Section Four of the Administrative Code, which means it will not be a binding foundation for the body that decides on the awarding of housing benefits," Chovanec writes.
Czech Radio reports that Marksová also expressed herself in that same vein today, stating that Labor Offices could take a municipality's stance on the issue as a mere recommendation. Last fall legislators approved an amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress that included an addition from Czech MP Stanjura (Civic Democratic Party - ODS) according to which municipalities, not the state-run Labor Offices, would be responsible for deciding on housing benefit awards.
Some municipalities - Bohumín and some municipal departments of Ostrava - have now rejected the benefits across the board, which means thousands of people have been exposed to the threat of ending up "on the street". The Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion estimates that as many as 17 000 people could be made homeless in connection with the new arrangements, while the Platform for Social Housing says that number could be as high as 25 000 people.
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