April 17, 2020 / 9:46 AM / 2 months ago

Spain to pay basic income to help poorest weather coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: Two people look through their window in a deserted street, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid, Spain, March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Susana Vera

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain is planning to pay a basic monthly income to about a million of the country’s poorest households to help them weather the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Social Security Minister Jose Luis Escriva said Friday.

Those receiving the basic income, which will be approved by the cabinet in May, will have incentives to find work, such as being allowed to combine the monthly stipend with wages from a new job for a period of time, Escriva told COPE radio station.

“Without incentives to find a job, there is a temptation to exhaust the stipend and not look on the job market,” he said.

It has yet to be decided how much will be paid per month and Escriva declined to say what it would cost the government, though he said it would be funded with new public debt.

He said up to a fifth of Spanish households have an income of less than 246 euros ($266) a month.

The Socialist Party and its far-left coalition partner Unidas Podemos agreed in January to create such a basic income as part of their four-year programme, though the coronavirus crisis has changed priorities.

Escriva said it would take weeks for the government bureaucracy to start paying the new benefit.

The Spanish economy shed 900,000 jobs during the first two weeks of a lockdown imposed on March 14 to limit the spread of the coronavirus, pushing the number of officially unemployed back up to where it had been three years ago.

Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Inti Landauro; Editing by David Clarke

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