With many busnesses closed and people out of work due to the nationwide quarantine measures in Italy, the government announced financial relief measures including the one-off payment payment available to some workers.
Self-employed and seasonal workers can apply for a 600-euro payment to help with the cost of living.
Online applications for the payment officially opened just after midnight on the morning of Wednesday April 1, via a government website – though it has reportedly proven dfficult to access.
People trying to register via the INPS (Italian social security office) website said it was crashing and malfunctioning.
Some users said the website was down – so many, in fact, that the hashtag #INPSdown started trending on Twitter.
The website also reportedly began showing users other people's personal details, including names and tax numbers.
Non solo #INPSdown. Molte persone si sono trovate davanti a nomi, codici fiscali e altri dati sensibili di altri utenti sul sito #Inps.
Un caos totale nel giorno della richiesta del bonus da 600 eurohttps://t.co/1AVfn4nlG9
— Giornalettismo (@giornalettismo) April 1, 2020
— Giulio Ranucci ? (@BlueGoblin) April 1, 2020
“Between one in the morning and about 8.30, we received 300 thousand requests,” said INPS President Pasquale Tridico.
“We are now getting 100 requests per second. Something never seen before on INPS systems. They are holding up, although blockages are inevitable with these numbers “
#Bonus600euro @PTridico : “Dall'una di notte alle 8.30 circa, abbiamo ricevuto 300mila domande regolari. Adesso stiamo ricevendo 100 domande al secondo. Una cosa mai vista sui sistemi dell'Inps che stanno reggendo, sebbene gli intasamenti sono inevitabili con questi numeri” pic.twitter.com/qHaIzETEdi
— INPS (@INPS_it) April 1, 2020
The website was later taken offline temporarily, as authorities claimed the site was “under violent attack from hackers”.
— Ministero Lavoro (@MinLavoro) April 1, 2020
It's hoped that the one-off payments will ease pressure on self-employed workers who have had to close their businesses during lockdown.
The self-employed and freelancers can also ask to have mortgage payments suspended for up to 18 months if they can prove that their incomes fell by at least a third – though banks are not guaranteed to allow this, and there's no similar provision for renters.
And with millions in Italy not eligible to apply for emergency payments, there are fears of social unrest as many are left without money for food and basic necessities.
There are an estimated 3.3 million people in Italy working off the books, and some five million were already living in “absolute” poverty in the country.