Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa and 2nd Vice-President and Social Affairs Minister Pablo Iglesias announced in a joint press conference Thursday that Iglesias has been called on to coordinate delivery of social services with the country’s 17 regional autonomous communities during the state of alarm decreed by the government to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
During the televised press briefing with reporters attending via video-conference, Illa said that Iglesias will be charged with giving “the necessary orders and instructions for the proper coordination of social services” that under Spain’s decentralized system of government are delivered by authorities at the regional and local municipal level throughout Spain.
Iglesias appeared alongisde Illa in what has been his first press conference since the COVID-19 epidemic triggered the government’s decree last weekend of a state of alarm throughout Spain, despite his technically still being under a 14-day quarantine for exposure to the coronavirus. Iglesias’ partner and the government’s Equality Minister, Irene Montero, has tested positive for the virus and is herself currently quarantined.
Iglesias told reporters Thursday that the Social Affairs Ministry that he leads will direct all necessary measures to make sure that “the most vulnerable people” in Spain are not left behind in the fight against coronavirus, whether in terms of adequate healthcare or economic and social assistance.
On Tuesday, the Spanish government’s Consejo de Ministros executive cabinet approved the expenditure of 600 million euros to strengthen social care for vulnerable groups as part of its 200-billion-euro social and economic assitance packet for workers and businesses. Iglesias said Thursday that he will hold a video-conferenceed meeting with all regional Social Affairs ministers throughout Spain next Tuesday to coordinate distribution of the monies.
According to a statement from Iglesias’ Social Affairs Ministry, half of the 600 million euros may be spent directly by municipalities, drawing on their accumulated surplus funds from their 2019 budgets. Normally used to reduce debt, Spain’s national government has decreed that the local governments can use this money to deliver necessary social services during the coronavirus crisis.
The other 300 million euros will be used to launch an emergency “Social Fund aimed at reinforcing social care for vulnerable groups”, including the homeless and Spaniards living at or below the poverty level in Spain. The precise distribution of those 300 million euros will be decided this Friday at a meeting of the Inter-territorial Council for Social Services, Iglesias said.
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