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Italy's Birthday Present to 18-Year-Olds: €500

To be used for the culturally enriching activities of their choice.

Tony Gentile/Reuters

On their 18th birthdays, Italian teens will soon wake up to a pretty sweet gift from the government: a “cultural bonus” to the tune of €500. The teens can spend the money on anything from visits to museums and national parks to books and concert tickets.

The scheme will launch on September 15, and every Italian teen whose birthday falls before December 31st of this year will receive the bonus, according to The Local. A total of €290 million in government money will be apportioned out to some 574,000 lucky youngins. The bonus will also retroactively apply to those born in 1998 who’ve already turned 18 this year.

The initiative “reminds [youth] how important cultural consumption is, both for enriching yourself as a person and strengthening the fabric of our society,” the Italian parliamentary undersecretary Tommaso Nannicini said in The Local.

The €500 will not simply be delivered as cold, hard cash: to access the funds, teens will have to download an application, 18app, and register through one of the country’s five identity-verification portals to receive login credentials. The app creates a voucher for each purchase, which will be invoiced to the government to verify that whatever the money is spent on is, in fact, culturally enriching. The €500 will be up for grabs from a teen’s birthday until the end of 2017 (or until all the money has been spent).

According to Corriere, the scheme was initially intended for only Italian natives, but the government will extend the bonus to foreign-born Italians with a residential permit.

Other governments are working on schemes to distribute no-strings-attached money to people, but the intent of those funding programs is mainly to alleviate poverty: the Canadian province of Ontario will set aside part of its 2017-2018 budget to test out a program that would cover people’s basic living expenses; Finland and the Netherlands recently proposed similar initiatives that would allot people between $800 and $1,000 per month to spend on living expenses.

The 18app program operates with a different purpose in mind. The scheme, Nannicini said in Corriere, is an experimental approach to cultural funding. Rather than the government picking and choosing which institutions to financially support, Nannicini says that the initiative leaves those decisions up to individuals’ preferences. 18app also reads as the Italian government investing in its cultural future. “The initiative sends a clear message to youngsters, reminding them that they belong to a community [that] welcomes them once they come of age,” Nannicini added.

According to The Local, the Italian government will follow up next year with a similar program, this time benefitting teachers.

H/t Atlas Obscura

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