A flagship Italian government program granting 18-year-olds 500 euros (566 dollars) to spend on cultural activities will launch in mid-September, 10 months after it was announced, an official said Tuesday.
"Everything is almost ready," a government official told DPA, confirming a report from the Corriere della Sera newspaper indicating that the unprecedented scheme would be operational as of September 15. "That's the date, give or take a day or two" he said.
Bureaucratic and technological problems - such as the need to create an online platform and negotiate deals with cinema and theatre owners' associations - delayed the program, which comes ahead of a key electoral test for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The so-called 18app program will allow anyone whose 18th birthday falls in 2016 to register online for a 500-euro bonus, which can be spent on museums, theatre, cinema, books and other activities vetted by the ministry for culture.
Grants will also be available to non-Italians if they have legal residency papers, officials said. Up to 575,000 people can benefit from the 290-million-euro initiative, which runs through the end of 2017.
Renzi presented the scheme in November as part of a response to terrorism threats, centered on the idea that "for every extra euro invested in security, there must be an extra euro invested in culture."
At the time, Renzi also gave salary bonuses and new patrol cars to policemen, and pledged 150 million euros for cybersecurity and 500 million euros for the redevelopment of blighted urban areas.
The prime minister has promised to resign if he loses a referendum on constitutional reforms due in November. Opposition groups have frequently suggested Renzi would try to woo voters to his side with tax handouts and other giveaways.
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