Enable Recipients of Allowances to Withdraw Money
On 26.3.2020, ACRI submitted an urgent appeal to the High Court of Justice against the Supervisor of Banks and the Bank of Israel, against the backdrop of the Corona crisis. We demanded that they be required to instruct all banks to open branches that have cash withdrawal services on Sunday, 29.3.2020, the date on which subsistence allowances are received, to clients who are recipients of such allowances and have no other means of accessing them aside from cash withdrawals via bank tellers. Furthermore, we demanded that they be obligated to instruct banks to repeal limits on the withdrawal of cash that is protected from confiscation, in accordance with the various regulations that have been enacted, and to take steps to transfer confiscation-protected cash via bank applications to clients who receive national social security benefits and who have had their accounts frozen.
Due to the Coronavirus crisis, the Bank of Israel instructed various banks to limit the number of branches with onsite tellers, and to keep only 25% of all branches open. As a result, major cities and many towns have been left without a single bank open to the public. Some communities are located dozens of kilometers from the nearest open branch. Our petition was submitted against the backdrop of significant concern that on Sunday, recipients of social security benefits for senior citizens; disability and related supplements; child support; inheritance; and other allowances critical for survival, would not be able to access funds due to the public closure of the majority of bank branches. The alternative measures offered by the Bank of Israel, namely sending debit cards to the homes of allowance recipients, are insufficient in that it is highly unlikely that they will arrive on time.
Approximately 30,000 individuals who receive benefits via transfers to their bank accounts (not including the Israel Postal Bank) do not possess either a credit or debit card for cash withdrawal. Moreover, many of these individuals’ accounts have been frozen, such that they cannot withdraw cash from an ATM or transfer funds using phone applications. Accordingly, a large percentage of this group relies on receipt of cash allowances via a bank teller at their nearest branch. Some individuals are unable to travel to another branch in a neighboring city or town to withdraw benefits, whether due to health concerns, mobility issues, vast reduction of public transit, or some combination thereof. For all, the closure of bank branches constitutes a mortal blow to their rights to live in dignity, health, and even to life itself – they cannot afford to wait, even for a matter of days, to receive benefits critical to their survival.
A day after the petition was submitted, the Supervisor of Banks approved our main demand – to open bank branches that serve benefit recipients, and work toward removing restrictions on account activity for clients whose accounts have been frozen. Consequently, the petition has been withdrawn.
For further information (Hebrew)
The petition was written with the help of our field worker, Sivan Tahel, and our intern, Noam Grunzweig