Riga is short of more than 1 million lats (1.4 million euros) necessary for the payment of welfare benefits, the Riga City Council’s Welfare Department said, reports LETA. This is why the department will ask that an extra 1.08 million lats be allotted for the payment of welfare benefits through amending the 2010 Riga budget at an extraordinary Riga City Council meeting. The Welfare Department of the Riga City Council informs that the number of welfare benefit recipients has increased 27 percent in the first six months this year, compared to the same period last year, which is the main reason for the insufficient funding for welfare benefits. Although Riga’s unemployment rate has been decreasing since February, it is expected to increase again in the fall when seasonal jobs will end.
Ahead of elections this October, the Riga City Council on Aug. 24 decided that unemployed retirees as well as visually and hearing impaired persons and those who worked to contain the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster would be able to ride Riga’s public transportation for free, reports LETA. The bill is yet to be reviewed by the Ministry of Regional Development and Local Governments. The move is estimated to cost around 3.5 million lats (5 million euros) per year to the municipal public transportation company Rigas Satiksme. If passes are issued this September, then the company would require additional funding of more than 1 million lats already this year. Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs (Harmony Center) explained previously that pensioners would be allowed to use public transport for free in Riga because they form one of the most vulnerable social groups. “Analyses of the situation clearly show that unemployed pensioners are one of the most vulnerable social groups,” the mayor pointed out. “At the moment, taking into consideration the reductions in administrative costs at Rigas Satiksme and the revenue in the Riga budget, the local government sees the possibility to provide social assistance to this category of Rigans by granting them the right to use public transport free of charge,” said Usakovs.