ROME (AP) — Italy’s populist government has launched its new minimum income welfare program, fulfilling a key campaign promise of the 5-Star Movement to help reduce poverty and spur employment in the eurozone’s third-largest economy.
The so-called “citizen’s income” is essentially a new system of welfare and unemployment benefits for residents whose household monthly income is less than 780 euros ($882).
Eligible residents receive monthly, pre-paid debit cards to pay for groceries, pharmaceuticals, utility bills and rent, among other things. In exchange, able-bodied participants enroll in a job-finding and job-training program. If candidates refuse the first job offer, they face possible longer commutes.
The scheme, which officially opened Wednesday, is slated to cost 7.1 billion euros this year, a projected spending spree that sparked months of budget negotiations with the European Union.