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Spain approves minimum income for 2.3 million poorest people

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Madrid

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's left-wing coalition government approved on Friday the creation of a minimum income worth 462 euros ($514) a month for its poorest people, whose financial fragility has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The scheme targets some 2.3 million people, Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias told a news conference. People aged 23 to 65 with assets of less than 16,614 euros, excluding house and discounted loans, will be eligible for the new scheme.

As a result, average spending on fighting poverty in Spain should rise from just over 0.1% of GDP - one of the lowest levels in Europe - to practically equal the average of 0.4% for OECD peer countries, the government said.

Under the decree approved at a cabinet meeting, the government would pay the monthly stipend and top up existing revenue for people earning less so that they get at least that minimum amount every month, Iglesias said.

The new programme will include incentives for finding a formal job, Iglesias said.

"We'll be successful if we are able to help the identified households to transition to a better place in society," Social Security Minister Jose Luis Escriva told the same briefing.

The minimum income would increase with the number of family members to a total of up to 1,015 euros per month. The new programme aims to reach 850,000 households, or 2.3 million people, and would cost the government about 3 billion euros a year.

Spain has had one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks, with more than 27,000 COVID-19 fatalities. Following the epidemic and the strict lockdown imposed in mid-March, unemployment has skyrocketed and a steep recession is now looming.

($1 = 0.8981 euros)


(Reporting by Inti Landauro, Emma Pinedo and Belen Carreño, editing by Andrei Khalip)