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When can material hardship benefits help us?

Each of us may find ourselves in a situation in life where struggling with financial problems and the inability to cover current expenses will bring a threat to our economic stability. It is important to realise that this situation can affect anyone, regardless of their own merits. If the situation can no longer be resolved by one’s own efforts, then there is the state, which in such cases provides its citizens with material hardship benefits.

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The emergency aid system is one of the measures the government is taking to combat social exclusion. The rules on assistance to people in material need are laid down in the Act on Assistance in Material Need, together with other legislation.

Emergency aid includes three social benefits:

  • a subsistence allowance,
  • housing benefit and
  • emergency assistance.

The conditions for receiving emergency benefits may vary depending on the individual allowance. There are also certain situations in which a claimant is not entitled to emergency benefits, for example if he or she has deliberately become unable to work, i.e. is not in gainful employment and is not registered as a jobseeker with the employment office. On the other hand, jobseekers who are registered with the Job Centre but who refuse job offers without good reason are not entitled to benefits.

In order to receive the emergency benefits, an application must be submitted to the relevant regional office of the Labour Office of the Czech Republic. The application is a prerequisite for the granting of benefits, after an assessment of the conditions. The claimant’s income is assessed for the previous three months during the initial assessment and subsequently during the previous month’s benefit receipt.

The local jurisdiction of the branch of the Labour Office of the Czech Republic is governed by the place where the person actually lives or resides. In the case of the provision of emergency immediate assistance in a situation that occurred outside the administrative district in which the claimant resides, the competent branch is the administrative district in which the situation occurred.

Tip: Losing a job puts a huge strain on our lives, not only psychologically, but also materially and financially. How should one proceed to reduce the impact of unemployment as much as possible, what is one entitled to in such a situation and how much support can one count on in 2023?

Living allowance

is intended to cover basic living needs. When it is approved, careful consideration is given to whether the claimant has the ability to increase his or her income through work and the extent of his or her assets or whether they could be monetised. The state of health of the applicant and the persons assessed jointly is also taken into account, but must be supported by a doctor’s report. It may be the case that, for example, a special diet will affect household expenses or that the serious health of another family member will prevent them from earning more. The final calculated amount is then compared with the subsistence and minimum subsistence amounts. Information on the possible amount of the benefit can also be obtained by using the material hardship benefit calculator.

For example, the calculator allows you to find out the minimum subsistence level for your family. This is an essential indicator for the award of various state benefits and also for the assessment of material need.

The amount of the subsistence allowance is determined as the difference between a person’s or family’s subsistence and their income, minus reasonable living costs (reasonable living costs are justified living costs, but up to a maximum of 30%, or 35% in Prague, of a person’s or family’s income).

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Supplementary housing allowance

Another benefit used is the housing allowance, which, according to its name, is designed to help cover the housing costs of people (or families) whose income is insufficient.

Housing benefit can apply to both tenants and owners of flats or houses. The amount is set so that after the housing costs (i.e. rent, utilities and energy costs) have been paid, the applicant or his/her family is left with a living allowance. The total eligible justified housing costs are capped at the locally normal amount. The basis here is also an examination of the income of the applicant and the persons assessed together, including whether the applicant can increase it through his or her own efforts. However, this does not mean that a retired senior is forced to take part-time jobs.

In general, entitlement to housing benefit is conditional on eligibility for the living allowance. However, the law allows for a housing benefit to be granted even if the claimant’s income is higher than the amount needed to cover the costs of basic living needs, as a result of which he or she has not been granted a living allowance.

Housing benefit is often confused with housing allowance. Both are used to cover housing costs. However, the supplement is designed and calculated in such a way that the person or family is left with the amount needed to live on. The housing allowance is linked to permanent residence in the property to which the benefit relates and is paid in the month following the month for which it is due. Housing benefit does not require permanent residence, but you usually need to get the living allowance at the same time. It is paid in the month for which it is due. As it is a material hardship benefit, it is not only the income that is assessed, but also the overall financial situation.

Tip: Long-term care for loved ones, whether they are an elderly, infirm parent or a seriously ill offspring, is not cheap. Paying for a caregiver, assistance, or starting to care personally and losing a substantial portion of your earnings will usually put a significant strain on the family budget. Therefore, it pays to know the options the state has to support such situations and to apply for a care allowance.

Emergency immediate assistance

Emergency immediate assistance is typically a one-off financial contribution that can be provided in very specific situations, for example

  • there is a threat of harm to health (the applicant has an income below the subsistence minimum, i.e. CZK 3 130),
  • a serious emergency, such as a natural disaster or fire, which could not have been foreseen in view of its extent, as a result of which the person is threatened, due to a lack of financial resources, in particular by the loss of housing or the failure to provide the basic necessities of life,
  • it is necessary to provide necessary expenses, for example, for administrative fees (e.g. for a duplicate identity document in the event of its theft) or for the education or leisure activities of a dependent child,
  • the purchase or repair of essential basic household equipment (refrigerator),
    risk of social exclusion (e.g. on release from prison, leaving a children’s home).

Only in exceptional cases can the benefit be granted repeatedly.

The amount of the benefit varies considerably according to the circumstances under which it is granted – for example, if, due to the applicant’s lack of finances, there is a risk of serious damage to health, then it can only be granted in an amount that will supplement the person’s income up to the subsistence minimum (i.e. up to CZK 3 130), in the case of a dependent child up to his/her subsistence minimum (i.e. CZK 2 480 for children under 6, CZK 3 050 for children aged 6 to 15, CZK 3 490 for children aged 15 to 26). On the other hand, in the event of a natural disaster, it is possible to apply for up to 15 times the minimum subsistence amount, i.e. CZK 72 900, and in the event of an imminent loss of housing, it is possible to apply for up to 20 times the minimum subsistence amount for an individual, i.e. up to CZK 97 200.

If the applicant does not have enough money to repair or purchase essential items of long-term necessity (washing machine, refrigerator), then assistance can be provided up to the price of the appliance, but not more than 10 times the amount of the individual’s subsistence minimum, i.e. CZK 48 600. The same amount can be granted for emergencies related to the education or leisure activities of dependent children. Other situations are similarly specified and different amounts of allowance are assigned to them. It is therefore always necessary to describe the specific situation precisely in the application.
The allowance is linked not only to a specific situation but also to a specific expense. It cannot therefore be granted retrospectively to an expenditure that has already been made (but exceptions can sometimes be made to this rule).

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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