Welfare recipients in the Czech Republic who default on fines for serious misdemeanors could lose part of their housing or subsistence benefits
As of 2022, welfare recipients who repeatedly fail to pay local fines for selected serious misdemeanors may lose part of their housing supplements or subsistence allowances - starting this month, the authorities will have the right to deduct unpaid sanctions from such benefits. The change was introduced by an amendment to the law on providing assistance to those in material need.
The amendment was proposed by MPs from the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) during the most recent election period. Disputes over the bill followed in both the lower and upper house.
Critics spoke of its impact on the families of misdemeanor perpetrators and of its possible unconstitutionality. Proponents, in turn, pointed to the need for more enforcement.
Those in favor of the bill believe the threat of withdrawing benefits could discourage misdemeanor offenses. Social issues experts did not spare the bill criticism either, as the change will necessarily disproportionately affect the poorest of the poor, in their view.
The authorities will be able to deduct money from welfare benefits to cover unpaid fines for misdemeanors against public order, against civil cohabitation, and against property. Local authorities will be able to do the same if guardians fail to enrol a child for compulsory school attendance or neglect a child's compulsory school attendance.
People who have not paid a fine for violating a municipal decree establishing conditions for organizing sports and cultural events could also lose part of their benefits. According to the amendment, the "once and for all" principle will apply to the deduction of fines from welfare benefits in the case of a child's truancy.
For other kinds of misdemeanors, the authorities may deduct unpaid penalties only for the third such offense and subsequent ones. However, in certain cases, municipalities will be able to request a deduction for a first or second misdemeanor.
Deductions from benefits will be decided on by Labor Offices after notification. The amounts withdrawn from the benefits would then be paid into the budgets of the respective municipalities.
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