Georgia’s coronavirus crisis plan will help the unemployed, but 1000s will go without aid
The long-awaited economic assistance plan, which the Georgian authorities finally made public on April 24, plans to give citizens who are unemployed due to the pandemic 200 GEL [about $62] per month over six months.
The government also plans to give a one-time payment of 300 GEL [about $93] to freelancers and the self-employed.
The economic plan provides for other types of assistance as well. More information about the plan can be found here.
- Op-Ed: Georgia’s fight against coronavirus – groping in the dark
- Georgia and coronavirus: success or sheer luck?
- Georgia: what fate awaits tourism?
However, the assistance program has been criticized by human rights activists. They predict that most people in need of help will not be able to receive it.
This is primarily because of the restrictions imposed by the authorities, and secondly due to the fact that the authors of the plan did not bother to calculate the actual number of people who would potentially need assistance from the state.
Most of those who are informally employed will apparently be unable to claim benefits from the government. The Georgian Ministry of Health explains that benefits will be paid only to those who have been employed by a legal entity (and there are very few of them among the self-employed).
“If a person worked as a taxi driver, then a taxi license alone will be enough. However, if he worked as a driver for a family, evidence from the family, unfortunately, is not enough. The certificate must be issued by a legal entity,” said the Deputy Minister of Health of Georgia Tamar Barkalai in an article published by Echo of the Caucasus.
The opposition called the government plan ‘populist’ and a pre-election ploy (parliamentary elections in Georgia are scheduled for October). One of the opposition members, leader of the Civil Movement Aleko Elisashvili, gave an emotional statement in which he asked the government to “try to live with their families off of 200 lari per month.”
The authorities announced the anti-crisis plan on April 24. By this time, Georgia had been in quarantine for a month and knew that there was just as much time to go before the measures could be lifted.
For the majority of the population of Georgia, which is not a particularly rich country, the state of emergency, which ceased work in almost all small businesses, caused a lot of pain.
Official figures show that more than half (51 percent) of all working people in Georgia are self-employed. Long before the crisis, the authorities themselves acknowledged that they had no adequate record of the number of people in this category, and there was no understanding of the size of their revenue.
NGO The Center for Education and Monitoring of Human Rights (EMC) states that there are around 800,000 self-employed people in Georgia, and the authorities are prepared to give assistance to only 250,000 recipients.
Among the ranks of the self-employed in Georgia are housekeepers, nannies, private tutors, guides, drivers, hairdressers, market vendors and many other people whose well-being depends entirely on their daily income.
Many people have too small of a salary to be able to save for a rainy day, and self-isolation has hit them the hardest.
And although a one-time payment of $93 [about 300 GEL] is unlikely to affect the financial situation of such workers, this amount could be a little help.
On social networks, more and more advertisements for private services offered by hairdressers and other beauty industry professionals are cropping up, subverting the state of emergency requirements.
“Sometimes a dozen such announcements are published,” said the moderator of one of the groups in the Georgian Facebook community. “I wouldn’t approve them before, but now I allow people to advertise their services, because I understand that everyone needs to feed their children, and they can’t expect help from anywhere else.”
Georgia is expected to lift the quarantine in stages, with different industries opening at different times. If everything goes according to plan, then by July, everyone will be able to return to work.
Online registration for self-employed workers should begin in May.