Minister Lazarov: Over 310 000 people will receive heating benefits

Minister Lazarov: Over 310 000 people will receive heating benefits

“Over 310 000 people will receive targeted heating assistance in the coming winter season. Almost 196 000 applications have been submitted so far. Of these, 108 000 have been approved and the rest are being processed.” This was said by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labor and Social Policy Lazar Lazarov at a press conference to present Deputy Ministers Nadya Klisurska, Natalia Efremova and Prof. Emil Mingov and the ministry’s priorities in the mandate of the caretaker government.


Each eligible person will receive a total of BGN 623.55 for the period 1 November 2022 - 31 March 2023, which is BGN 100 or nearly 20% more than last heating season. “The higher amount of the benefit will start to be paid from August 15,” Minister Lazarov explained.


“We will strive to use all possible resources to provide support to people and families on low incomes. One of the essential instruments in this direction is the Food and Basic Material Support Programme approved by the European Commission for the programming period 2021-2027. Under this programme, we will have BGN 411.7 million, with which we will provide various types of support to over 600 thousand people,” said Minister Lazarov. The programme aims to distribute 350,000 food packages and hygiene materials each year, as well as providing a year-round hot lunch to over 50,000 people on low income. The programme also includes 2 new areas to support poor families with children by providing essential baby products for over 10,000 newborns and baby kitchen vouchers for 10,000 children.


“From 1 September, we are ready to invite municipalities to apply for the provision of hot lunch so that there is no interruption in the service. In parallel, work is underway to launch public procurement procedures for the selection of suppliers of food packages and hygiene materials,” Deputy Minister Natalia Efremova explained.


Minister Lazarov pointed out that the ministry will propose that the poverty line for 2023 be raised to BGN 504, which is a 22% increase compared to its current level. The new size is defined by Eurostat’s Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) survey, making the poverty line an adequate, measurable and comparable tool suitable for use in different dimensions of social policy.


“We have already taken action to link social benefits to the poverty line, explained Lazarov. Deputy Minister Klisurska added that estimates show that by linking benefits to the poverty line, the number of people receiving them will increase from the current 63 000 to 86 000 in 2023. “For 2024, the forecast is that their number will reach 105,000 people,” she added.


As a priority of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, Minister Lazarov also pointed to limiting the negative effects on the labour market. “We will strive to increase the employment rate and create conditions for more people to find their livelihood. The main focus in this area will be on supporting young people, persons with disabilities and people of pre-retirement age. Our efforts will also be directed to the reserve of the labour market - the inactive persons,” Minister Lazarov stressed.


He added that the first schemes of the Human Resources Development Programme (2021-2027) will provide employment for at least 50 000 people. “Conditions will be created to support more than 40,000 children and young people to get a chance for fulfilment in society. Ensuring continuity of services for the elderly and people who cannot care for themselves will also be a key focus,” Minister Lazarov said. Priority will also be given to implementing the commitments of the Recovery and Resilience Plan, which relate to reforms in social assistance, the modernisation of the long-term care system for the elderly and people with disabilities and the creation of a digital training platform for over 500,000 people.


Minister Lazarov also said that following the principles in the draft directive for adequate minimum wages, the MLSP will propose to the social partners that its amount in 2023 be 50% of the average wage for the previous year, which is BGN 770. “This is a basic option for discussion. Discussions on the subject will take place in the coming months,” he underscored.