Food, energy, fuel… But why does the government love checks?

Faced with the problems, the government seems to have two favorite solutions: the toll-free number, worn to the core during the health crisis, and the check. After the fuel check and the energy check, the executive intends to experiment with a food check in the coming months, the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, said on Monday. A project already mentioned in 2022.

The goal: to help the most modest to do their shopping in the midst of inflation. But why is the government so fond of this aid, instead of using other means?

A targeted but sometimes difficult to access check

First advantage, “the check is visible and concrete, you can touch it with your finger. This helps send the signal that the government is acting and is in the action,” said Angela Sutan, researcher in experimental economics and professor at the Burgundy School of Business. Second good point by Louis Maurin, sociologist specializing in poverty and director of the Observatory of inequalities: allow to target only part of the population. “We saw it with rebates on gasoline for everyone: untargeted offers are extremely expensive and are a drain on public spending. Checks make it possible to concern only part of the population – the one who needs it the most – and not to scatter aid. »

But the process has its perverse effects. If we do not yet know the terms of
this food check, if not that it “will be made on a territorial basis, probably the department”, according to Bercy, that around fuel, unlike the energy check, required to make the request with an online form. “Only half (of eligible people) asked for it, because of the digital bill but also the signal of precariousness and a ”shame” to ask for help, recalls Angela Sutan. Without accusing the government, we can all the same estimate that the check, if it is necessary to go to seek it, allows less expenditure than it seems, since everyone will not make the request ”.

More structural answers requested

Speaking of expenses, the repeated use of checks makes it possible to carry out “one shots” rather than longer-term actions. “For the energy check, for example, we resonate in hundreds of euros when the amount of the bill for a consumer is in the thousands. It is very often insufficient aid, ”points out Noam Leandri, president of Alert, a collective of 34 solidarity associations.

Associations that demand structural responses and not short-term aid: “Small checks are starting to do well. Social minima must be raised to at least the height of inflation, and preferably more. We are talking about a 14% price increase on energy or food. It’s not checks that will settle this, ”said Noma Leandri.

To a gasworks

Same observation with Louis Maurin: “The government tends to multiply the checks and to make it a kind of gas factory of great complexity, while there is a very simple element in this country: the social minima. Today, they are 500 euros, and who can admit to living decently with such a sum? We have many structural tools on which to act: the RSA, the family allowance, housing, the specific solidarity allowance… ”

The Observatory of Inequalities is campaigning for a single minimum income (RMU), from the age of 18, of 900 euros per month. “The estimated budget is estimated at 7 billion, or a third of the cost of the abolition of the housing tax, and this would avoid checks in all directions”, pleads Louis Maurin.

Paternalism in aid?

Last reproach made to the check, that of imposing a specific purchase within a determined period of time. For example, the fuel check (for fuel) is only valid until March 2023. “It helps people less since it constrains them in their expenses. They can’t necessarily target what they really need. This is also why the government favors checks, because it reassures about the use made of this money, author of many clichés, ”points Angela Sutan.

“There is a certain paternalism in wanting to predefine how precarious people will be able to benefit from aid. As if without that, they would spend their money badly, deplores Noam Leandri. This prevents you from managing your budget over several months and smoothing it out. Unless there is a blank check, the government is therefore always struggling to convince.

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