In the dispute over citizen income, the traffic light coalition and the Union have reached an agreement. There should be stricter rules for recipients of citizenship benefits than the draft law by Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has so far provided. Money cuts against help recipients of up to 30 percent should be possible right from the start if they miss appointments at the job center or do not accept offered jobs. There should be lower exemption limits for the assets that beneficiaries are allowed to leave untouched. Negotiators from both sides confirmed this on Tuesday.
The CDU chairman Friedrich Merz said, to his surprise, the traffic light coalition was very largely willing to make compromises. “This means that the law, as it is now in this form, can be approved from our point of view.” He will also propose this to the Union faction.
“It’s a workable compromise,” said Katja Mast, the first parliamentary director of the SPD parliamentary group. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) said at the economic summit Süddeutsche Zeitung in Berlin: “We now want to decide on a very large social reform, which will then describe the way in which job seekers are supported in Germany for decades.” That will also succeed.
The Greens parliamentary group leader Britta Haßelmann emphasized that the standard rate increase for benefit recipients will now come on January 1, 2023. The core of the reform remains intact, namely not to place people in “any job” in the future, but to qualify them and get them permanent work.
On Monday evening, representatives of the traffic light and the Union negotiated in informal preliminary talks for four hours. At 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning, an agreement was said to have been reached that both sides could live with. The longest dispute is said to have been about reducing the so-called grace period to twelve months. The Greens in particular are said to have had a hard time with this. The Union pulled together at the federal and state levels and therefore achieved a great success together, said Union faction Vice Hermann Gröhe.
The countries with government participation of the Union temporarily stopped the citizens’ income last week in the Bundesrat, this Wednesday the mediation committee of the Bundestag and Bundesrat is supposed to seal the compromise, which could then be decided on Friday in the Bundestag and Bundesrat.
The traffic light coalition wanted to introduce a six-month “trust period” during which only repeated missed appointments at the job center would be punished with a maximum ten percent cut in money. In the old Hartz IV system, up to 30 percent were possible. This should now also apply to citizen income, but the sanctions can only be tightened in stages. The trust time is cancelled. Green party leader Haßelmann regretted that the trust period should now be eliminated.
The draft law is also likely to be tightened up for so-called protective assets and waiting periods. Here, the coalition wanted to leave many more assets than before to those who received aid. In the first two years, 60,000 euros plus 30,000 for each additional person in the household. Now the waiting period is to be reduced to twelve months with the more generous regulations. The protective assets are therefore only 40,000 euros instead of 60,000. For each additional person in the household, it would be limited to 15,000 each, halving the planned 30,000. A family of four would, for example, come to 85,000 euros, which they think does not have to use up a citizen’s allowance, instead of the previously planned 150,000.
Citizens’ income is to replace the Hartz IV system for the unemployed in 2023. The job center employees should then spend less time with formalities and more with looking after people. Because most of the long-term unemployed do not have a professional qualification, in the future, for example, catching up on professional qualifications will have a higher priority than finding a job quickly. In addition, the standard rates are to increase, for a single person from 449 euros to 502 euros per month. The Union also supports this increase without objection.
Because parts of the reform, in particular the higher payments, are to come into force on January 1, the negotiations are being held under time pressure. The Federal Employment Agency had already stated that if they were to pay out more money from January, then they would have to have legal certainty by the end of November, i.e. a new law.