What is Subsistence Benefit?
Subsistence benefit is a financial state aid to people in need. Subsistence benefit is paid by local government from state budget funds. According to the situation, local governments will use social services and other forms of social assistance to alleviate needs. Subsistence benefit is paid if all the other measures to alleviate poverty and need have shown to be insufficient.
The provisions for the application for, calculation, granting and payment of subsistence benefit are laid down with the Social Welfare Act.
The bases for the calculation of subsistence benefit is the last month’s net income of a person living alone or all family members, fixed housing expenses, due the current month, and the established subsistence level.
The subsistence level is established by the the Parliament for a person living alone or to the first member of a family for each budgetary year by the state budget. The subsistence level of each minor member of a family is equal to the subsistence level of the first member of the family. The subsistence level of the second and each subsequent adult member of a family is 80 per cent of the subsistence level of the first member of the family. Subsistence level is established based on minimum expenses made on consumption of foodstuffs, clothing, footwear and other goods and services which satisfy the primary needs. In 2017, the subsistence level for a person living alone or to the first member of a family is 130 euros per month. The subsistence level of each minor member of a family is also 130 euros per month. The subsistence level of the second and each subsequent adult member of a family is 104 euros per month.
Beneficiaries of subsistence benefits with only minor family members are entitled, in addition to the subsistence benefit, to an additional social benefit of 15 euros.
In addition, a rural municipality or city government may grant and pay additional social benefits from the budget of the local government concerned. Families with children receiving child allowance, to whom subsistence benefit is granted, can also apply for a needs-based family benefit.
Who Are Entitled to Subsistence Benefit?
A person living alone or a family whose monthly net income, after the deduction of the fixed expenses connected with dwelling, is below the subsistence level has the right to receive a subsistence benefit.
Upon the grant of a subsistence benefit, the following persons who live in the same dwelling and have a shared household are deemed to be family members:
1) persons who are married or in a relationship similar to marriage;
2) ascendants and descendants related in the first and second degree;
3) other persons who have a shared household.
Students up to 24 years of age are deemed to be members of the family if the address details of their residence entered in the population register coincide with the address details of the residence of the family members.
All and any income of a person living alone or the net income of all the members of a family during the preceding month, not specified as an exception by law, will be treated as income. For example, wages, family allowances (with the exception of a child allowance per third and every consecutive child in the amount of 45 euros per every child that receives the aforementioned child allowance), unemployment insurance benefit, unemployment benefit, received child support, maintenance allowance, pension, disabled person’s allowance, income tax return, any other form of income.
Upon calculating a subsistence benefit, the following shall not be included in the income of a person living alone or a family:
- single benefits paid to a person living alone, a family or members thereof out of the funds of the state budget or local budget;
- periodic benefits paid from local government budget funds pursuant to the legislation of the local government which are dependent on family income or granted to compensate for the cost of a specific service;
- benefits paid on the basis of the Social Benefits for Disabled Persons Act, except for the disabled parent's allowance;
- student loan granted with security guaranteed by the state;
- grants and transport benefits paid on the basis of the Labour Market Services and Benefits Act or from the structural assistance funds;
- needs-based study allowance and needs-based special allowance paid on the basis of the Study Allowances and Study Loans Act and allowance paid from a special allowance fund established by an educational institution;
- child allowance for the third and each subsequent child paid on the basis of the State Family Benefits Act in the amount of 45 euros for each child receiving child allowance;
needs-based family benefit.
In addition, a rural municipality or city government may choose not to include grants paid for a specific purpose or benefits paid to cover specific expenses or loss in the income of a person living alone or a family.
Taking into account the limits established and the socially justified standards for dwellings, the following fixed expenses connected with dwelling payable during the given month shall be taken into account upon calculation of a subsistence benefit:
- the administration costs of the apartment building, including costs related to repairs;
- repayment of loan taken for renovation of the apartment building;
- the cost of services of supplying water and leading off waste water;
- the cost of thermal energy or fuel consumed for supply of hot water;
- the cost of thermal energy or fuel consumed for heating;
- the costs related to consumption of electricity;
- the cost of household gas;
- the expenses made on land tax, which is calculated based on the size of land that equals three times the area under the dwelling;
- the expenses made on building insurance;
- the municipal waste transport fee.
Socially justified standard for dwelling is 18 m2 per every family member plus 15 m2 per family. The limit for fixed expenses, connected with dwelling will be established by a rural municipality or city government to ensure subsistence, worthy of a human being. If students up to 24 years of age who deemed to be members of the family have additional expenses, connected with dwelling, 18 m2 per student will be added to the socially justified standard per family.
Who Should You Address?
In order to obtain a subsistence benefit for a given month, a subsistence benefit applicant shall submit an application to the rural municipality or city government in whose administrative territory the actual residence of the applicant is located not later than by the twentieth day of the given month. Within five working days after the submission of all documents, a subsistence benefit shall be granted. A rural municipality or city government shall pay the amount calculated as subsistence benefit, within three working days after the date on which the corresponding decision is made.
- to a person between the age of 18 and the pensionable age with capacity for work who is not working or studying and who is not registered as unemployed with the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund or who has, more than once and without good reason, failed to comply with the Individual Action Plan or turned down suitable work offered to him or her, or has refused to participate in social services or study organised by a rural municipality or city government directed towards independent ability to cope;
- if the subsistence benefit applicant or a child entitled to receive maintenance who lives together with the applicant, or other descendant or ascendant who needs assistance and is unable to maintain himself or herself has the right to receive support but who refuses to submit a document certifying the right to receive the support or refuses to claim the support;
if the rural municipality or city government finds that the movables and immovables or selling or renting the movables or immovables used or owned by an applicant for subsistence benefit or his or her family ensure sufficient funds for coping for the person or his or her family.
The decision to refuse from granting the benefit will be announced to the person concerned in writing, within five working days after the date on which the corresponding decision is made.