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E-pay benefit cards prove popular, says ministry

FIVE municipalities were originally due to take part in a pilot project to introduce e-pay cards to people who receive state allowances but in August 2011 the Labour Ministry reported that more were interested in piloting the project, and so e-pay cards will be introduced in nine villages where socially-excluded communities live.

FIVE municipalities were originally due to take part in a pilot project to introduce e-pay cards to people who receive state allowances but in August 2011 the Labour Ministry reported that more were interested in piloting the project, and so e-pay cards will be introduced in nine villages where socially-excluded communities live.

There are about 189,000 recipients of social benefits in Slovakia, and over 360,000 individuals, such as children, who depend on them. Under the new system, every beneficiary gets a bank account and an associated e-pay card. Instead of cash payments, the allowances are transferred directly to recipients’ accounts. The Labour Ministry believes the cards could become an effective tool against loan-sharking and poverty in excluded communities.

“We reckon that [loan-sharks] will try to abuse the cards in some ways, but we are ready to uncover such abuse and prevent it,” deputy minister Lucia Nicholsonová said.

The villages that are currently participating in the project have between 600 and 17,000 inhabitants, the ministry said, with those classified as poor ranging from 10 to 42 percent of their populations. The ministry did not specify which municipalities are involved.

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