“These are the new poor”: Covid-19 fuels growing poverty in Italy | News from the world

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The lines up at a soup kitchen in Rome’s Trastevere district, travels at a much slower pace than before the coronavirus epidemic in Italy, due to rules of physical distancing. But it’s also much longer.”We have gone from about 300 meals at a time to 500,” said Lucia Lucchini, who runs the kitchen run by the Catholic charity Sant’Egidio.

“There were very difficult days at the start of the isolation, with many homeless people coming here who were afraid because they did not understand what was going on – some were even fined for being on the street . Then we started to see people who had not come before, those who had lost their income and who had no family to turn to. ”

The new faces are among the one million Italians who will be plunged into poverty this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to estimates by Coldiretti, the farmers’ association.

“What is happening is in front of everyone,” said Lorenzo Bazzana, economic adviser to Coldiretti. “Families who may not have been in trouble before are now taking on a heavy economic burden and are turning to food banks for help.”

Not too far from the Trastevere soup kitchen is the Casino del Bel Respiro, a 17th-century palace where Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte organized talks this month to save the country’s economy, after which he said Italy was likely to exceed an expected 10% deficit in domestic production, and that measures to avoid layoffs and help struggling sectors like tourism could not wait until September , when the government presents a comprehensive plan to revive the economy.

Coronavirus deaths in Italy – graphic

But for businesses and individuals who desperately need immediate financial support, Conte’s words are nothing more than down.

Italy’s slow and obstructive bureaucratic system means that only 30% of businesses have received the funding they were promised during the foreclosure, and many business owners are still waiting for government-backed bank loans. Meanwhile, thousands of workers have yet to receive payments due under a leave scheme.

“There is a huge delay in payments to businesses and individuals,” said Wolfango Piccoli, co-chair of London-based research company Teneo. “And while everyone is focusing on the big figures, what really matters, ultimately, especially for the weakest members of society, is the ability of the state to provide money. In Italy, state capacity is a big problem. ”

As leaders grapple with the economy, much of the burden of proof lies with charities and community groups to support those who are struggling. Many supermarkets in Rome have adopted the “Spesa sospesa” (deferred purchases), which allows buyers to buy groceries that charities then deliver to the poor.

Last week, Pope Francis created a fund to help families in the city in difficulty.

Volunteers from Nonna Roma, a community group, now regularly deliver food parcels to 7,500 families, up from 300 before the pandemic.

“These are the new poor,” said Alberto Campailla, one of the volunteers. “Among them are domestic workers who have lost their jobs, or people who were doing precarious work … but also young professionals who have a considerably reduced income.”

Campailla said the government should try to expand its basic income system, which was deployed last year, and help people pay their rent.

“There is a serious risk that many people will be unable to pay their rents and lose their homes,” he said.






Customers are skinny on the floor for this souvenir shop in Rome. Photography: Alessandro Serranò / AGF / Rex / Shutterstock

If the EU stimulus fund is approved, the money will not be shared until 1 January. In return, member states must ensure that funding is not wasted while committing to bring about change and invest in projects that drive economic growth.

Until then, the only possible funding that Italy could access from Brussels is the Sure program, which mainly provides additional funds for leave schemes.

Many stores and other businesses in Italy have not reopened since the lockdowns were relaxed. Those who are struggling to make ends meet.

“Much of our business comes from hotels or events, such as weddings, that have been canceled,” said Enzo Russo, owner of a florist with his wife, Antonella, in the Esquilino neighborhood of Rome. “We need a firm response from the government, if it continues like this it could be very dangerous.”

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