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  • Soup kitchen in Athens. (Photo: Reuters)

    Soup kitchen in Athens. (Photo: Reuters) | Photo: Reuters

Greeks who live below the poverty line will soon receive 200 euros state assistance each month. Previously, unemployment insurance expired after one year.

Residents living under the poverty line in Greece will soon be able to receive a monthly state stipend.

“It’s a way to protect socially vulnerable people,” said Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday. Single people who receive less than €5023 (US$6359) per year will receive an additional €200 (US$253) per month in aid. A four person household earning less than €10,547 (US$13,351) annually are entitled to €400 (US$506). The government assistance programs come at a time in Greece where many are in dire need.

According to the Greek statistics agency, Elstat, more than 23 percent of Greeks -- approximately 2.5 million -- live below the poverty level. The unemployment level in Greece marked at 27 percent also by Eurostat in June 2014, is the highest in the Eurozone.

The situation exploded when many European states fell into debt. By late 2009, capital investors feared that European countries Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus, would not be willing or able to pay back their debts to the World Bank and other international finance institutions. In several countries, including wealthier European nations like Finland, governments bailed out banks and transferred private debts to the national or sovereign debt systems. In Greece’s case, the problem was complicated by the fact that public funds such as pensions and government salaries were connected to this debt.

To reassure the investors, on May 2, 2010, the Eurozone countries together with the IMF agreed on a €110 billion (US$139 billion) bailout loan for Greece, but under the condition that the country cut social programs, privatize government assets by the end of 2015, and implement other “structural readjustments.” These austerity measures drove people further into poverty and economic precarity, causing massive rioting and social unrest for the past five years.

European Union leaders, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have all approved Greece’s basic income measure, according to Greek government officials. The government subsidy, which seeks to ameliorate the aftermath of Greece’s continuing crisis, will commence on January 1, 2015, initially in regions where unemployment is particularly high. Eventually, the assistance program will be expanded to the entire country.

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