JERUSALEM – Israel on Thursday presented an one-year economic plan totaling 73 billion new shekels (about $21.1 billion) to help employees, self-employed persons and businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan, presented by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz, includes a social assistance grant for the self-employed up to 15,000 new shekels every two months, as well as grants for existing and new businesses.

It also includes the extension of unemployment benefit payments for an one-year period.

“The plan provides financial certainty for the coming 12 months, with a quick money in the bank account. This is a safety net for all Israeli citizens. The state will do whatever it takes to alleviate economic hardship,” Netanyahu said.

He admitted that the reopening of businesses, schools and other places with gatherings “was too early.”

The Israeli leader explained that the decision was made “because we listened to the plight of the citizens, and to get as many people back into work as possible.”

“I take responsibility for this step, as well as the responsibility to fix it,” Netanyahu said.

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