Dispute over basic security: The Union is playing poker for citizen money

Dispute over basic security: The Union is playing poker for citizen money

CDU boss Friedrich Merz only wants to increase the Hartz IV standard rates and clarify the rest later. The Greens see the citizen money project in danger.

Politicians sit at a table with microphones and a laptop in front of them

Mario Czaja (left), Friedrich Merz and Silvia Breher at the Federal Executive Board meeting Photo: Britta Pedersen/dpa

The January launch of the citizen money is on the brink. Before the vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the fronts between the traffic light coalition and the Union remain hardened, the tone is getting rougher. The responsible ministers of the traffic light reject the compromise offered by CDU leader Friedrich Merz, to only increase the standard rates of basic security by 50 euros from January and to clarify the rest later.

“Only deciding to increase the standard rate cannot be the solution,” said the responsible Green MP Stephanie Aeffner to the taz. “This would amount to putting all other content improvements on hold and possibly not rolling them out at all.”

The labor and social policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Martin Rosemann, also rejects Merz’s offer: “We are not starting to remove individual areas,” Rosemann told the taz. According to the SPD politician, a compromiseable proposal has already been presented.

“We now expect the federal states to assume their state-political responsibility and not get involved in Mr. Merz’s tactical party games,” said Rosemann. The Union under Merz is leading the debates from the day before yesterday. Aeffner believes that the Union is not concerned with factual criticism. “The Union rushes low earners and citizens’ income recipients against each other with one fake news campaign after the other. That’s what I call a trumping of politics.”

The traffic light coalition would like to replace the much-maligned Hartz IV system with citizen income from January. In the future, the focus should be on support instead of demands; those who become unemployed should be able to concentrate on further training and job search. In order for this to succeed in peace, waiting periods for housing and assets should apply in the first two years.

This means that the job centers bear the costs of the apartment without pushing for a move to a cheaper and smaller one. In addition, people do not have to liquidate their savings initially, but are allowed to keep 60,000 euros during this time plus 30,000 euros for each additional household member. This rule already applies, the Union had introduced it in the corona crisis as a safety net for the self-employed, among other things.

She would like to keep the traffic light and also introduce a “trust period”: After the conclusion of a cooperation plan, recipients of citizen’s income do not have to fear any sanctions for six months, for example if they reject offers of mediation. Sanctions are still possible for repeated missed appointments.

Caritas emphasizes the importance of the waiting period

The Union takes issue with these two points in particular, the waiting period and the temporary abolition of sanctions, and sees false incentives. “It must continue to be worth working,” said the Bavarian Labor and Social Affairs Minister Ulrike Scharf (CSU) on Monday in a press conference of the Union faction. The Union cannot prevent citizens’ income in the Bundestag, but it can prevent it in the Bundesrat. The countries in which she co-governs have a majority of 39 votes there. The traffic light would need five yes votes from this camp so that the citizens’ income can be introduced as planned on January 1st.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, led by Hubertus Heil (SPD), made compromise proposals last week, which are also backed by the specialist politicians from the SPD, Greens and FDP. This is intended to shorten the waiting period for those who have already applied for basic security during the corona crisis – by these months.

The assets must be disclosed in a self-certification. And moving to a more expensive apartment requires the approval of the job center. Heating costs are covered in an “appropriate” amount. Even these proposals do not go far enough for the Union. The deputy faction leader of the Union, Hermann Gröhe, called them “insufficient” on Monday and blamed the SPD for “driving their supposed prestige object against the wall”.

A public hearing in the Bundestag on Monday afternoon also brought little new knowledge. The Union presented experts from the district council and the employers’ associations, who reinforced the argument that citizen income would no longer make work worthwhile. SPD and Greens led representatives of trade unions, social organizations and the employment agency to the field. Birgit Fix from Caritas emphasized the importance of the waiting period so that the unemployed can concentrate on finding qualified work.

The Confederation of German Trade Unions accuses the CSU of using false numbers to stir up sentiment against the citizens’ allowance and ripped apart a calculation example on Twitter that the party had put on the Internet. According to this, a couple with two children living in low-wage sector works, almost 800 euros less at the end of the month than a comparable family that receives citizen benefits. However, the CSU had embezzled the housing benefit and the child allowance. With these benefits, people who receive the minimum wage will in future be significantly higher than the recipients of citizen income, according to the counter-calculation of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB).

The SPD is optimistic

However, the DGB criticizes another weak point: Nothing should change in the calculation of the standard rates. “This means that one characteristic of the old Hartz IV system remains unchanged – a level of performance that does not effectively protect against poverty and does not offer sufficient social participation,” according to the DGB.

The Bundestag will deal with the plans on Thursday. The SPD is optimistic that Union countries will be on their side. Baden-Württemberg, Hesse or North Rhine-Westphalia, which have five or six votes in the Bundesrat and in which the Greens are involved in government, could be considered.

CDU General Secretary Mario Czaja assumes, however, that the mediation committee between the Bundestag and Bundesrat will ultimately have to decide on the traffic light plans for the introduction of citizen income. This would mean, among other things, that the standard rates would not be increased on January 1st.

The regulation on protective assets agreed by the Union would also expire on January 1st. “That would mean that people who have been relying on this rule to continue to apply may not be receiving benefits in eight weeks because they are only getting theirs.” use up reserves must,” said Aeffner from the Greens. And those who counted on being able to stay in their apartment much longer would also be asked to move in eight weeks.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s Social Affairs Minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) reassured. “Nobody has to fear that they will get into trouble on January 1st,” said Laumann in the press conference of the Union faction. It remains a poker game.

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