Has Russia changed the rules of payments for preschoolers?

Now families with children will need to have at least some official income to receive benefits. This year, the rules for assigning benefits for preschoolers are changing.

Payments for children from 3 to 7 years old appeared only in 2020 and were assigned in the amount of half of the child’s minimum living wage to low-income families. Last fall, they started talking about making this support measure more targeted.

The government has come up with a scheme that will help to identify exactly the needy families and help them to a greater extent. The draft government decree, developed by the Ministry of Labor, has already managed to make a lot of noise and confuse everyone, so we decided to analyze it in more detail in order to understand who will benefit from the new rules and who may lose benefits.

Who will be helped?

Now families with children from 3 to 7 years old are paid half of the child’s subsistence minimum if the family’s income is below the subsistence minimum per person. Under the new presidential decree, benefits will be increased for some families. The system is as follows: if the income of a family receiving an allowance in the amount of 50% of the subsistence minimum, even taking into account this allowance, does not reach the subsistence level, then the benefit is increased by another 25% – up to 75% of the regional subsistence minimum per child. If even after that the family remains below the poverty line, add another 25% – up to 100% of the living wage.

Currently, not all families who need it can receive this allowance. For example, parents of students may find themselves in such a situation: adult children are not included in the family. However, they cannot fully support themselves, while studying internally – this falls on the shoulders of the parents. The government proposes to change the rule and include full-time students under 23 in the family.

Another change – compensation payments for the care of children with disabilities will not be included in family income. As explained in the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, now some of these families may not fall under the support measures, since the family income is slightly higher than the subsistence level – it can literally be 200-300 rubles. It is obvious that such a family still needs support from the state, but so far it does not formally have the right to do so.

Finally, the third expansion of coverage for beneficiary families is guardians. According to the current rules, the monthly allowance for children from 3 to 7 years old is not paid for the children under guardianship. This is due to the fact that, according to the letter of the law, children under guardianship are considered fully supported by the state. However, the total income of a family may be small, and thus the average per capita income remains below the subsistence level. This family situation affects, among other things, the child under guardianship, so a decision was made to change the current norm.

Who will be refused?

A number of new rules are planned in the draft resolution, among which are the requirements for movable and immovable property. There is a restriction on the number of apartments, houses, cars and other equipment. An apartment or a house can be of any area, if they are in the singular, and if there are several of them, then there is a limit on the footage per person. The car also relies on one family. If the family has many children or has a disabled person, there may be two cars. If the car was given to the family as a support measure, it is also not counted.

Moreover, for new cars (under 5 years old) there is a limitation on horsepower – no more than 250. Such technical characteristics are possessed by cars that are expensive both in purchase and in further maintenance (even if only in terms of the amount of tax). However, as explained in the Ministry of Labor, there are exceptions for large families: if the car has more than five seats, then even a new car with a capacity of more than 250 horsepower will not become an obstacle to receiving benefits.

And there is one more detail that limits the receipt of the benefit: it will not be paid if the parents have no income at all other than benefits. And this innovation raises a lot of questions. For example, what about housewives, parents of children with disabilities, students and just people who cannot find work?

As explained in the Ministry of Labor, students have a scholarship, it will be counted as income, and if a full-time student does not receive a scholarship, study is considered a good reason not to have income. But only until the student is 23. Income is also considered a pension, including a disability pension.

The so-called zero-income rule has exceptions – objective reasons for not having income. For example, this is not required from conscripts and prisoners. The unemployed can also be assigned an allowance, but only if the person is registered with the employment service, that is, he is still looking for work, and not just messing around. Long-term treatment can also be an objective reason for not having an income. Documented, of course.

“I think there are two reasons for such restrictions,” says Elena Blagova, a lawyer at the Women’s Crisis Center. – Firstly, we have a number of people who receive gray income and do not pay taxes on it. And thus the state confronts them with a choice: to lose support or go out of the shadows. Secondly, let’s be honest, we have parents who do not need children at all, and they continue to support them somehow only for the sake of receiving benefits, payments and benefits, and the children’s money is simply spent on drink. Meanwhile, parents have not only rights, but also responsibilities in relation to their own child. Including – its content.

Nonetheless, childcare remains a valid reason for unemployment. So, the benefit will continue to be awarded if the only parent or one of the parents in a large family does not work. A person caring for a disabled child or a disabled person (for example, an elderly relative) can have zero income, as well as a mother on parental leave to care for a child up to three years old.

“This provision is about zero income – it is still under discussion, has not been introduced into application,” says Natalya Karpovich, President of the Child Protection Fund, who took part in the discussion of the new rules for granting benefits. – It seems to me, on the one hand, mothers should have the right to zero income and women will use it. On the other hand, if we want to make as many preferences as possible so that a woman gets a job, we need to think about whether these two criteria will interfere with each other.

As for large families, then, Karpovich believes, a different approach is needed – the right for mothers with many children to recognize themselves as working. She says it will cut unemployment and government money for retraining women.

“Let her receive an average salary in the region, for example, and feel like a person who then does not leave her pension as a dependent,” suggests Natalya Karpovich.

All these new restrictions and, conversely, the expansion of benefit coverage are still in the process of discussion – the corresponding decree has not been finally adopted. But in any case, the changes will affect only benefits for children from 3 to 7 years old – they will not apply similar criteria of need to any other benefits.

In the meantime, we can say that the resolution, in whatever form it was adopted, will not apply to benefits that have already been assigned. That is, even if the parents do not pass according to the new rules, and the benefit was already assigned earlier, they will be able to receive it until the end of the period for which the payments were assigned.

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