People on low incomes could receive an extra €500 to cover their energy bills on top of the €800 already promised to offset the effect of high energy prices.
Prime minister Mark Rutte during a debate in parliament on Tuesday on the spring budget statement (Voorjaarsnota), which is a prelude to the full budget in September.
Rutte hopes that promising extra cash to help vulnerable families cope with high gas bills will make his budget more appealing to opposition parties such as Labour (PvdA) and GroenLinks, whose support may be needed in the Senate.
The Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG), which is charged with making the payouts, has criticised the government for leaving local authorities to deal with the impact.
‘Municipalities are now taking their responsibility, because we find it unacceptable that vulnerable families would otherwise not be supported,’ the organisation said.
Unlike the universal €800, the extra €500 bonus will be paid to a limited group of about 1 million people who have an income slightly above the social minimum
PvdA and GroenLinks wanted to extend the eligibility to everyone claiming healthcare allowance (zorgtoeslag), which would have benefited some 4.5 million people, but but the government has dismissed this as unfeasible.
‘We are irresponsibly asking a lot of our public service providers,’ Rutte told parliament as he came under fire from both flanks.
Anti-Islam PVV party leader Geert Wilders said the cabinet was giving ‘a big middle finger’ to people who can no longer pay their bills.
Jesse Klaver of GroenLinks accused Rutte of hiding behind implementation problems and lacking the political will to take action, while Socialist leader Lilian Marijnissen pointed out the discrepancy between working people and large companies, the latter who were quickly rescued when they needed help. ‘And now nothing can be done,’ she said.
Marijnissen and Wilders tabled a motion of no confidence against the cabinet, which was voted down.
Coalition party members were more enthusiastic. D66 MP Steven van Weyenberg called the VNG’s offer ‘not ideal, but a step,’ while ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers said: ‘‘Something is better than nothing.’
The prime minister also warned it may not be possible to pay everyone in the target group the €500 bonus before December 31.
He said tax authorities and municipalities can’t handle all of the year’s new regulations, but there will be more capacity in 2023.
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