Hundreds of Self-Employed Workers and Small Business Owners Protest Lack of Compensation Due To Forced Coronavirus Closure

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Hundreds of self-employed workers and small business owners took to the streets again on Sunday, including angry protests outside the Knesset and President’s Residence in Jerusalem. Protests were also held in Haifa and Tel Aviv. The protesters were voicing their frustration against the insufficient financial aid that is being offered by the government for people in their position. Earlier this month, the government said self-employed workers would now be eligible for a grant up to an increased maximum of NIS 10,500. While above the national average income, this total is far lower then what most businesses need to maintain their basic operations and allow for the owner or self-employed person to pay their expenses.

Roee Cohen, President of the Israel Chamber of Independent Organizations and Businesses (LAHAV), was one of the people protesting outside the Knesset. Cohen told Israel media that, “The incompetence of the Israeli government in its program providing assistance to the self-employed and small businesses causes us to repeatedly risk thousands of people at demonstrations in order to shock decision-makers and, above all, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

“The weird plan that was developed in the Finance Ministry reflects its unreceptive nature and lack of understanding of the scale of the crisis in the business sector. There are no other words but to say that the Finance Ministry and the Budget Department are leading us to an unprecedented economic catastrophe,” Cohen added.

Cohen claims that the compensation for businesses should be based on the decreased turnover, similar to the mechanisms that have been put in place for extreme circumstances such as war and drought damage, and financed by real estate purchase taxes gathered by the government.

In an effort to hear the protesters, President Reuven Rivlin and the CEO of the President’s Residence met with the protesters and invited two of the leaders of the demonstration to come and voice their concerns to him. The two people were Lucy, a 45-year-old woman who runs a private kindergarten and Abir Kara, the founder of a self-employed Facebook movement. They met inside the Presidential residence and told Rivlin of their woes and concerns.

“This is an emergency situation which is like war, and we must see the big picture without abandoning anyone,” said Rivlin. “What you said here will be relayed to the heads of the relevant ministries as you said it. You came to me and said what you had to say and I will deal with it.” Rivlin asked them not to increase the level of protests or further their campaign until he can deal with what they told him.