Poland’s Finance Minister to Press Ahead with 500+ Family Benefit – Despite Report that Government Can’t Afford it

Poland’s finance minister has stated that a new 500 złoty per child family benefit will be implemented – despite a report from his own ministry that the government can’t afford it.

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The Rodzina 500+ programme was one of the key planks of the new Law and Justice (PiS) government’s election campaign – promising a means-tested, tax-free lump sum for families with one child, with an additional 500 złoty per child for second and subsequent children. However, the Ministry of Finance has refused to issue a ‘positive opinion’ on the plan – stating that there was not enough money in the budget and raising concerns about knock-on effects on the labour market.

Around 17 billion złoty has been ring-fenced for the programme, but the Finance Ministry believes it will in fact cost some quarter of a billion złoty more. In addition, the Ministry report added, parents with large families may quit their jobs – although this would also create employment opportunities.

Paweł Szałamacha, minister of finance, dismissed the concerns raised in the report as a ‘storm in a teacup’. Speaking at a press conference he said that funding for the programme were ‘available and protected’.

Mr Szałamacha added: “Today the draft has been approved, and we are not short of the money”.

He was backed by Elżbieta Rafalska, minister for families, work and social policy, who said that 2.7 million families would receive the benefit.

Ms Rafalska’s deputy, Bartosz Marchuk, dashed hopes that money would be available to families from the proposed April 1 deadline, saying he did not anticipate problems in starting to accept applications for the Rodzina 500+ benefit from that date. According to Mr Marchuk, parents would have to submit their applications within three months, and should expect to wait at least six weeks for a decision.