FRABOUL, France (AP) French authorities on Thursday delayed an eligibility review for 2,100 beneficiaries of French welfare payments that would have allowed them to receive state benefits in France, as they seek to avoid criticism of their policies.
Under the plans, beneficiaries would have been eligible for payments starting in 2019, but they would have to wait until 2019-20 to receive them.
The two-year delay comes as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Thursday that French President Emmanuel Macron would “rethink” his decision to suspend the two-time winner of the presidential election on Feb. 7.
Valls called the decision to postpone the eligibility review “a mistake” and said it “can’t go unpunished.”
In a statement Thursday, French President Macron’s office said the two years are “an exceptional period” for the implementation of the reform plans and that the reforms are “undergoing rigorous review” as they work toward being fully implemented by the end of 2020.
The reforms are designed to speed up the process of transferring payments to new recipients and to improve eligibility verification, said the statement.
They will not change eligibility, nor will they change the number of beneficiaries who can receive benefits, it added.
The French Socialist government has promised to ease unemployment benefits and reduce the number who receive benefits if they receive a high enough wage.
The reform plans have been hailed by some French economists as a key component of Macron’s plan to tackle France’s chronic unemployment crisis.
Macron has said the reform would help tackle the country’s chronic fiscal deficit and the country needs a large reduction in unemployment.
The government has estimated that more than 300,000 people would have benefited from the reforms if they were implemented by 2020, according to a recent study by the European Commission.
The commission estimated that the new benefits would have cost about $3 billion and had been expected to cost about another $3.5 billion.
The European Commission, which is coordinating the implementation and review of the plans with the French government, said it was aware of the “difficult and costly” task ahead.
The EU said the plan would help bring about a “positive change” in the situation of French citizens.