Lithuania’s Senior Citizens in a Heating Subsidy Dilemma
A heated debate has erupted in Lithuania over heating subsidies for senior citizens. The Ministry of Social Security and Labor has introduced changes in how these subsidies are granted, now considering not just income but also the overall wealth of applicants. This has left some senior citizens perplexed and, in some cases, without the financial aid they have been receiving.
One such case is that of Egidija, a senior citizen from Kaunas, who has more than €2,300 in her bank account. Despite receiving a larger pension and always receiving heating subsidies, she is now told that she is ineligible because of her savings.
“I don’t understand how the state, which prides itself on being a welfare state, can demand our savings, even our rainy-day funds, just for heating,” Egidija questions.
Previously, the application process for heating subsidies did not require detailed information about one’s bank savings. However, as of September 1, assets – both movable and immovable – and cash savings are now considered in the assessment process.
The Ministry of Social Security and Labor argues that it’s not just savings but an individual’s overall wealth that should be taken into account when determining eligibility for subsidies. This has caused some confusion and controversy, especially among senior citizens who find it unfair.
While Egidija, who has a two-room apartment and a garden, may be able to manage her heating expenses without subsidies, there are concerns about those with lower incomes and larger families who may struggle without the financial aid they were previously entitled to.
The ministry emphasizes that it’s important to avoid abuses of the system, and the new rules help ensure that the subsidies are directed to those who truly need them. However, critics argue that this approach is undermining the principles of a welfare state.
This policy change has also raised concerns of senior citizens being asked to drain their savings before qualifying for essential assistance, adding to their financial insecurity.