For five months 50% of housing benefit costs will be covered by the state in Latvia

On Wednesday, 22 December, Latvia’s Saeima passed amendments to the Law on the Suppression of Consequences of the Spread of Covid-19 Infection. These amendments state that from 1 January 2022 and until 31 May 2022 the state will be providing municipalities in Latvia grants to cover 50% of the actual costs of housing benefits.
Saeima deputies decided to make amendments urgent and viewed them in two readings in one meeting.
As previously reported by the Ministry of Welfare, this initiative will require EUR 16.7 million from the state budget.
This is one of the forms of support he ruling coalition in Latvia offers to compensate to the rapidly growing heating costs. The Ministry of Economics previously proposed temporarily reducing VAT for gas. This proposal was not supported by the coalition.
Considering the state of emergency with Covid-19 and its consequences, the ministry believes there is a great risk of both the size of the housing benefit and the number of recipients increasing considerably and the general purchasing power of residents reducing as a result.
«Wintering is a particularly difficult task if there is simultaneous pressure from the pandemic on employment and healthcare and a gradual price climb on energy resources. We have developed these amendments to ensure equal support across all low-income households who are at risk of covering utility costs during the heating season,» says Minister of Welfare Gatis Eglītis.
As reported by the ministry, amendments were developed «to provide equal support to low-income households in all municipalities» if they are at risk of not being able to cover housing maintenance costs this heating season. This is especially true for residents of pension age and invalids, whose income is low but still slightly above the income threshold outlined in the Law on Social Services and Social Assistance.
In December there was a meeting of Latvian ministers of welfare, financing, economics and environment protection and regional development. Ministers agreed to expand the group that may qualify for housing benefits, expand the range of benefit recipients from 29 000 to 34 000 persons.
The latest amendments provide for setting higher coefficient for pension age recipients and independently living invalids (2.5 for housing benefit formula) or a household that has only people of pension age and persons with a disability (2 for housing benefit formula).
According to the Ministry of Welfare, one pre-condition for housing support is an evaluation of a household’s financial situation, preparation of a subsistence declaration, and a receipt proving housing costs. Evidence will need to be presented to the respective municipality’s social service.
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The housing benefit amount is calculated based on different expenses – use of living space and services related to use of living space (heating energy and hot water, electricity and water supply, gas, sewer and household waste management), if they are included in rent fee or necessary expenses related to mandatory management activities.
Housing benefit amount is calculated as difference between guaranteed minimal income (GMI) thresholds for the household and the actual expenditure and total household income. The municipal administration will be able list more beneficial conditions for different expense positions, as well as set the coefficient for guaranteed minimal income threshold amounts for households and types of households to be applied with a coefficient for calculation of housing benefits.
To receive housing benefits, a person in a household needs to turn to their respective municipality’s social service with a request.