Zugló becomes first Hungarian settlement to introduce minimum income

March 5, 2015

KaracsonyBudapest’s District 14 (Zugló) has become the first Hungarian settlement to introduce a minimum income allowance for families living in the district.  The ordinance is in striking contrast to everything national ruling party Fidesz stands for when it comes to public assistance, and yet Zuglo’s majority Fidesz fraction voted for the initiative.  “We haven’t done anything huge, just pulled our heads out of the sand and listened to what socio-political experts were saying,” district mayor Gergely Karácsony (Dialogue for Hungary – PM) told ATV.

Poor families in Zugló can receive a minimum income after the district’s general assembly unanimously voted last Thursday to support Karácsony’s  proposal.  The minimum income means that the district will “top off” individuals’ monthly income to ensure it reaches HUF 26,000 (USD 96) for at least one person per household.  One person per family can pick up the assistance.  If in the meantime a family member finds a job, then half the support is to be paid for another six months.

The assembly also decided to provide HUF 10,000 (USD 37) monthly to families struggling to pay rent or with utility arrears, and to lend money to families who are at least two months behind in their rent or whose utilities have been cut off.  The district is also increasing the support paid to families at the beginning of the school year.  From this Autumn children going to kindergarten are also entitled to receive the support.  Additionally, the assembly increased to HUF 30,000 (USD 110) the one-time support paid to women who have given birth.

Karácsony (pictured) said: “Zugló’s situation is fortunate in that there is productive dialogue between Fidesz and the opposition despite the fact that they do not agree on everything.

“It may be that [Prime Minister] Viktor Orbán has ideas about how to do away with welfare and social supports, but the concept of a work-based society is fundamentally flawed,” said Karácsony, who believes 21st-century societies should be based on “knowledge, freedom and dignity”.

Zugló mayor says “even if there isn’t enough work, even then people have to eat.”  He points out that “Hungarians work more than those living in the other countries of the region.”

As to why the district Fidesz caucus supported the proposal, Karácsony said: “When the state withdraws from the social welfare system, and people are left without money, then obviously within the Fidesz caucus, partially in the search for their own truth, but also out of political interest, they are not willing to go along with saying, ‘fine, we’re pulling down the shutter, go find a job’, because they acknowledge exactly that the people will break through the shutter.”

Zugló also repealed the district’s “homeless ordinance” of 2013 banning sleeping rough in public areas.  Karácsony says there was a huge argument over this in the district general assembly, “but even if a gun were held to my head I could not vote differently because there is absolutely no point to this [which is] so damaging to human dignity that on this there can be no compromise.”

Zugló is devoting half a billion forints of its own income to the social system.  Some 300 families are expected to benefit from the introduction of the minimum income, and some 3,000 families the flats subsidy, according to the district gazette.