Order to return fire aid riles Ileia

Local officials from the prefecture of Ileia in the Peloponnese yesterday condemned a decision by the government to force 12,000 residents to prove that they were entitled to one-off cash payments of 3,000 euros following last summer’s wildfires in the area. In a decision made known earlier this week, the Economy and Finance Ministry has decided to chase up thousands of residents due to suspicions that they were not entitled to the aid or that some families claimed the cash on two or three separate occasions. The ministry has sent written notification to some 12,000 people, asking them to come forward with the paperwork that would prove they were entitled to the money or risk having to pay it back. This has angered local politicians. «We are totally opposed to the process the government has begun by sending out notifications and we want it to stop immediately,» Ileia Prefect Haralambos Kafyras told Kathimerini. «The government should not demand this emergency aid back from any Ileia resident, regardless of any mistakes or excesses and especially at a time when Ileia is going through a period of deep economic crisis.» The Economy Ministry says that only the details of a small percentage of the total number of recipients will be checked. According to official figures, almost 44,000 people received aid and just over 32,000 will not be bothered any further. However, the ministry says that its checks have revealed that some of the information given to officials at the time may have been wrong or false. Should the aid be recovered from some 12,000 people, it would lead to public coffers being boosted by more than 30 million euros but local officials believe the government should turn a blind eye. «Last year the government generously offered the 3,000-euro payment, which some people who were not eligible took advantage of. A lot of those affected by the fires tried to cover the increased cost of their production as they had lost all their olive trees and claimed two or three payments for their family,» said Zacharo Deputy Mayor Efstathios Gentimis. «Now, the government is asking thousands of beleaguered residents to give this money back. So much money has been frittered away in various scandals and bribery cases and they now decided that a measly 3,000 euros bothers them.»

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