Italian MPs slammed for claiming Covid-19 emergency welfare

Italy's political class was up in arms on Monday after reports that five lawmakers had allegedly sought to claim a "Covid Bonus" designed to help struggling Italians during the coronavirus epidemic.

Italian MPs slammed for claiming Covid-19 emergency welfare
Italy's lower house of parliament in Rome. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

First reported by La Repubblica on Saturday, then splashed across other front pages, the scandal involves five unnamed MPs who are accused of applying for the €600 per month aid.

News reports said the MPs, dubbed “i furbetti del bonus” or 'the bonus schemers' in Italian headlines, came from the opposition right-wing League party, the ruling populist Five Star Movement and the centrist Italia Viva party.

READ ALSO: Face masks remain and cruise ships return: What's in Italy's new emergency decree?

Not all the MPs who applied for the bonus received it, La Repubblica subsequently reported on Monday, saying that its sources said only three had actually got the pay-out.

“The 12,439 euro net salary each month wasn't enough. Nor were the privileges and benefits parliamentarians have historically enjoyed,” the paper wrote in its original expose.

Another 2,000 elected officials on regional and city councils also claimed the aid, according to the report.

The government aid of €600 for the months of March and April and €1,000 for the month of May was intended to help self-employed and seasonal workers affected by the coronavirus lockdown. Some €6.9 billion of the aid was distributed to Italians.

To qualify, applicants needed to have to have a partita IVA (VAT number) and to be able to demonstrate that the crisis had wiped out at least two-thirds of their usual income.

READ ALSO: 'Stopgap' or life saver?: Italy's scheme to help the self-employed survive the coronavirus crisis

The MPs' dipping into the scheme, caught by a government anti-fraud body, elicited strong reaction.

“It's shameful, really indecent,” wrote Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio of the Five Star Movement on Facebook, calling for the money to be returned and the lawmakers to step down.

The head of the League, Matteo Salvini, initially said they should resign but later called for their suspension.

The Italia Viva party, founded by former prime minister Matteo Renzi, denied that any of its parliamentarians had received the bonus.

A number of local councillors came forward to say that they too had claimed the bonus or other government support during the crisis, defending themselves on the grounds that politics wasn't their only job.

Member comments

  1. Shameful, it’s a disgrace!!
    They should be named and shamed and forced to pay all the money back. And they should be made to resign.

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Biden warns Italy over election results as Draghi receives award from Ukraine

The US President Joe Biden warned that global ‘democracy is at stake’ as Italy’s outgoing PM Mario Draghi received one of Ukraine’s most prestigious awards.

Biden warns Italy over election results as Draghi receives award from Ukraine

President Joe Biden cited the far-right’s election success in Italy as evidence of what he regarded as a danger to democracy around the world, including in the United States.    

“You just saw what’s happened in Italy in that election. You’re seeing what’s happening around the world,” Biden told Democratic party governors at a late meeting on Wednesday, referring to the win by far-right leader Giorgia Meloni in Italy.   

READ ALSO: Italy will not recognise Russian referendums, says Draghi

“We can’t be sanguine about what’s happening here either,” Biden said, pointing to what he sees as anti-democratic forces led by former president Donald Trump in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.

Biden said that Chinese leader Xi Jinping had told him “straight up that democracies can’t be sustained in the 21st century”. 

He added: “I don’t want to exaggerate it, but I don’t want to understate it. And it’s the reason why I’m so concerned. Democracy is at stake.”

In the meantime, Italy’s outgoing PM Mario Draghi is set to receive one of Ukraine’s most prestigious awards from President Volodymyr Zelensky, Draghi’s press office said on Thursday.  

Prime minister of Italy Mario Draghi (L) shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky following their meeting in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022.

Italy’s outgoing PM is set to receive the prestigious Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise award from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

Draghi told Zelensky that he was “honoured and moved” to be given the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise of the first degree, and “happy to receive it from your hands in Kyiv”, according to Rome’s readout of a phone call between the pair.

Established in 1995 by President Leonid Kuchma, the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, is awarded for services to the state and people of Ukraine. The medal of the order has a blue ribbon with a yellow stripe on each side.

Draghi has been one of the strongest backers of EU sanctions against Russia over the war, and Rome has sent several weapon shipments to help Kyiv.

In its own statement, the Ukrainian presidency’s office said Zelensky had praised Draghi’s role “among the names of political leaders who have supported Ukraine” since the start of Russia’s invasion.

Draghi will have to step down when a new government takes office following last Sunday’s elections, which were won by Giorgia Meloni’s far-right coalition.  

READ ALSO: Italy’s Salvini calls for Europe to ‘rethink’ sanctions on Russia

After her victory, Meloni said Ukraine could count on Italy’s support.   

Despite her former Euroscepticism, the Brothers of Italy leader has firmly backed Draghi’s position thus far. However, her government allies, far-right League leader Matteo Salvini and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, have long had concerning ties with Moscow.