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Netanyahu pledges more welfare spending as COVID forces new shutdowns

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 28, 2020. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a new welfare package on Thursday for Israelis who have lost livelihoods due to the coronavirus crisis, saying the measures would provide an economic safety net for the coming year.

A surge in contagion prompted the government to reimpose closures on businesses this week, dashing hopes of a recovery from a record 21% unemployment and stoking anger at the slow payout of $29 billion in aid previously pledged by the state.

In a televised news conference, Netanyahu said Israel would make those who lost jobs to the crisis eligible for welfare through to mid-2021, provide retraining for “coronavirus-era professions” and expedite grants for ailing businesses.

“We want to arrive at a situation where people know how we will manage to live over the coming year,” he said. “It would cover all of the losses, but we have to provide a security net.”

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Peter Graff

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