Czech Labor Ministry says homelessness will not rise because of housing benefit ambiguity
The Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry issued a press release at the end of June on the current situation regarding the disbursal of housing benefits. News server Romea.cz publishes it in full below, followed by a response from the Union of Cities and Municipalities.
Czech Labor and Social Affairs Press Release on Housing Benefits
The state, through the Labor Office, and the municipalities should proceed on the matter of consent to the disbursal of housing benefits with maximum collaboration in order to fulfill the spirit of the law on aid to those in material distress. Despite all of the ambiguity surrounding the interpretation of that part of the amendment to the law, it is now being demonstrated that those municipalities which have initiated social work with the clients whose housing benefit applications they have rejected are now managing to resolve these situations to benefit both the municipalities and the people who have ended up in difficult living situations - and by so doing, the municipalities are also fulfilling their legal obligations under the law on aid to those in material distress and the law on social services; moreover, the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry is providing municipal and regional authorities this year with specially targeted subsidies for this social work.
Ministry and municipalities are designing another amendment
Labor and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová announced those findings in the context of the recent standpoint issued by the Interior Ministry, according to which a municipality's consent is just one of many background materials to be used for the purposes of evaluating an applicant's entitlement to housing benefit. "The Interior Ministry, after half a year, has now changed its standpoint to say that municipal consent is just one of many criteria according to which a Labor Office will decide to award housing benefits or not. The Labor Offices closely collaborate with the municipalities and under no circumstances is there any danger that the number of homeless people will grow. Especially in cases where various traffickers in poverty are building new residential hotels in municipalities against the will of the citizens and mayors and creating excluded localities, I do not presume that housing benefits will be awarded for residency in such places," the minister said.
Marksová said the ministry is now designing an amendment in collaboration with the Union of Cities and Municipalities so that mayors will not lose the option of defending against traffickers in poverty who frequently create new ghettos by moving people into them. She believes that it is only through a joint approach of the local and state administration that the housing benefits will be awarded to those who actually need them and who will, thanks to social work, acquire the chance and the motivation to actively address their living situations.
Labor Offices can disburse housing benefits without local consent
In this context, the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry has issued a recommendation to all branches of the Labor Office of the Czech Republic to disburse housing benefits in cases where the situation of the client is evaluated as a case deserving of special attention. This procedure can be used even in cases where municipalities have not yet sent their standpoints to the Labor Office or in cases where municipalities have sent a rejection but where, according to the Labor Office, the case remains deserving of special attention.
The Labor Office of the Czech Republic can, on the other hand, also decide not to provide housing benefits to a client because the reasons listed by the municipality in its rejection indicate that the situation is not one deserving of special attention. Should the Labor Office of the Czech Republic decide that the housing benefit will not be provided in a specific case, the client has the option, for a limited interim time, of applying for the extraordinary immediate aid benefit.
Clients, of course, may only be awarded this benefit if they meet the condition of taking an active approach toward more permanently resolving the interim situation. "The employees of all contact workplaces of the Labor Office of the Czech Republic will continue to monitor the situation and closely collaborate with municipalities on resolving the situations of specific clients. In municipalities that have rejected the housing benefit for a larger number of applicants, our people have ended up under enormous pressure. However, they are dealing with the situation and the collaboration with municipalities and other entities involved is working," confirmed Kateřina Sadílková, the official tasked with managing the Labor Office of the Czech Republic.
According to data from the Labor Office of the Czech Republic, as of the end of May 2015 a total of 946 rejections had been issued by municipalities with respect to housing benefits. The greatest numbers of rejections were reported by staffers of the Labor Office of the Czech Republic in the Moravian-Silesian Region (443) and in Central Bohemia (139), while in other regions there were far fewer rejections - for example, in Prague and in the Vysočina Region there was not one rejection.
Union of Cities and Municipalities disagree with new interpretation
The Czech News Agency reports that the Union of Cities and Municipalities disagrees with the new interpretation of the housing benefit rules. "This standpoint is an about-face. It does not give municipalities legal certainty with respect to how they should behave. The sense that they have been doing unnecessary work predominates. They have done their best to reject applications where the cases are problematic," Dan Jiránek, Executive Director of the Union, said.
He went on to call the new interpretation "very specific" and a non-standard procedure. The current legislation states that the benefit shall be disbursed with the consent of the municipality, but now that apparently no longer matters.
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