Five Italian Italian lawmakers were granted €600 bonuses aimed at struggling workers hit by the coronavirus pandemic, according to local reports on Monday, sparking outrage.
The scandal stemmed from a report in Italian daily La Repubblica, which said five lawmakers from different parties – including the hard-Right League – had requested and obtained the €600 payment designed for self-employed and casual workers forced to stay at home by the pandemic.
The monthly bonus - issued in March and April - was part of a financial relief package approved by the government at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, when Italian authorities were forced to impose a nationwide lockdown to try to contain the deadly spread.
Italy has been among the worst-hit countries by coronavirus in Europe, with over 35,200 deaths nationwide.
The applications for the bonuses, which were made through the website of Italy’s social security office INPS, made the site crash in just a few hours, as millions of Italians requested the payments.
According to La Repubblica’s findings, three lawmakers from the far-right League, one from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and one from the centrist Italia Viva party, exploited the emergency situation to request the bonus, despite the fact they retained their salaries.
The report sparked fury in Italy, with citizens enraged by evidence that Italian lawmakers – who usually earn over €12,000 # a month – resorted to a relief measure targeted to the poor and unemployed.
The “bonus” scandal is just the latest involving the Italian political class, known for frequent episodes of corruption and abuse of power.
The incident is even more striking as it involves populist parties – like the League and the Five Stars – which have always been very vocal against the privileges of the political elite, engaging in battles to cut the lawmakers' benefits and salaries.
The names of the lawmakers involved in the scandal have not been published for privacy reasons, but all the main political leaders have called for them to come out, reimburse the money and then step down.
Five Star's Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio, whose party has been the main champion of a new law that aims at cutting the number of MPs in parliament, was quick to criticise the politicians who claimed the money.