First reported by La Repubblica on Saturday, then splashed across other front pages, the scandal involves five unnamed MPs who are accused of applying for the €600 per month aid.
News reports said the MPs, dubbed “i furbetti del bonus” or 'the bonus schemers' in Italian headlines, came from the opposition right-wing League party, the ruling populist Five Star Movement and the centrist Italia Viva party.
Not all the MPs who applied for the bonus received it, La Repubblica subsequently reported on Monday, saying that its sources said only three had actually got the pay-out.
“The 12,439 euro net salary each month wasn't enough. Nor were the privileges and benefits parliamentarians have historically enjoyed,” the paper wrote in its original expose.
Another 2,000 elected officials on regional and city councils also claimed the aid, according to the report.
The government aid of €600 for the months of March and April and €1,000 for the month of May was intended to help self-employed and seasonal workers affected by the coronavirus lockdown. Some €6.9 billion of the aid was distributed to Italians.
To qualify, applicants needed to have to have a partita IVA (VAT number) and to be able to demonstrate that the crisis had wiped out at least two-thirds of their usual income.
The MPs' dipping into the scheme, caught by a government anti-fraud body, elicited strong reaction.
“It's shameful, really indecent,” wrote Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio of the Five Star Movement on Facebook, calling for the money to be returned and the lawmakers to step down.
The head of the League, Matteo Salvini, initially said they should resign but later called for their suspension.
The Italia Viva party, founded by former prime minister Matteo Renzi, denied that any of its parliamentarians had received the bonus.
A number of local councillors came forward to say that they too had claimed the bonus or other government support during the crisis, defending themselves on the grounds that politics wasn't their only job.