LABOR

Minister pushing to keep emergency subsidy for out-of-work

Government may do midsummer about-turn on 400-euro last-resort checks

The government of Mariano Rajoy is reportedly planning to maintain a 400-euro monthly subsidy given to the unemployed when their jobless benefits run out. According to Cabinet sources, Labor Minister Fátima Báñez is working on a plan that will allow the government to continue paying the money under the so-called Plan Prepara program, and will present it to Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro by next Wednesday.

The subsidy for the out-of-work was introduced by then-Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in February 2011, but the current prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced last month that his government would eliminate it as part of the cost-saving measures to be introduced by his Popular Party (PP) administration.

Both the Socialists and labor unions have been putting pressure on Rajoy to try to change his mind on Plan Prepara, which supports around 200,000 people.

Officially, the Labor Ministry says that a final decision is yet to be taken on Plan Prepara, which is due to expire on August 15. Under the scheme, those whose unemployment checks run out receive 2,400 euros over an additional six months if they don't find a job.

There are more than five million people currently out of work in Spain.

Other government sources said that the PP is also looking at improving the program.

Alfonso Alonso, the PP spokesman in Congress, said that the plan was very important because it offers some "social protection" for those who are not working.

But he also attacked the Socialists, who have launched a campaign on social networks in support of keeping the 400-euro payment. "We are paying Zapatero's unemployed with that money," Alonso said. "That makes the attitude of the Socialists opportunistic."

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