And, the categories for aid can be adjusted if the economy slumps or if unemployment increases. Nowadays, even as the economy slowly recovers, there is still much demand for help, so officials say it is especially important to target those most in need, old-age pensioners, workers who earn low wages, and families.
“It is important that we really know who is getting benefits,” says Ieva Jaunzeme, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Welfare. “It is easier online, we have 12 different categories of beneficiaries, and now we can enact better policies to directly target them.” She says the economy in Latvia is picking up, though unemployment remains high. And getting people back to work is a priority.
Local governments in Latvia play an important role in paying for social assistance and in ensuring that it remains an important last resource in the country’s social safety net.
Ervins Alksnis runs Riga’s Social Services program. He says the number of needy people in Riga in May of 2015 was exactly 10,200 people. “They get 128 Euro per person per month in assistance. But things are getting better, the number of people decreased by 21 percent compared to last year.”