S. Korea puts spurs to COVID-19 relief fund payment ahead of holiday
Vice Finance Minister Ahn Il-hwan. (Yonhap)
The first batch of the emergency relief funds for the socially vulnerable will be handed out starting Thursday, following the National Assembly’s approval of the extra budget bill worth 7.8 trillion won ($6.7 billion), officials said Wednesday.
The government’s target timeline is to distribute 80 percent of the total budget, or 6.3 trillion won, ahead of the Chuseok holiday that is to start on Sept. 30.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance held an emergency fiscal status meeting in the morning, under the chairmanship of Vice Minister Ahn Il-hwan, to confirm the payment details of the disaster relief funds.
The meeting took place shortly after the fourth supplementary budget bill was approved by the parliament late on the previous day. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki had repeatedly urged for a speedy passage of the budget proposal, citing the approaching national holiday.
The latest fiscal plan, seeking to help out econimically struggling groups amid the prolonged COVID-19 fallout, has brought Korea’s extra budget total for this year to 67.8 trillion won.
“The key task is to shape up the distributions of the disaster relief funds as swiftly as possible, within the next five days that run up to the Chuseok holiday,” said a ministry official.
The top priority will be the Emergency Employment Stabilizing Fund, tailored for freelancers and non-standard contract workers who suffer from job instability and reduced income.
The 500,000 beneficiaries who were subject to the fund earlier this year will start receiving 500,000 won each, starting Thursday, without additional paperwork. Some 200,000 new applicants are expected to receive 1.5 million won in cash in November, after undergoing the screening process.
For small-sized merchants who were heavily hit by the social distancing rules, the allowance payment will kick off on Friday.
Those who conventionally made 400 million won or less in annual sales and who have seen drastic sales reduction due to the latest COVID-19 resurgence, the government will provide 1 million won in special subsidy.
Those that were forced to shut down amid the enhanced social distancing rules will receive 1.5-2 million won, depending on the type and size of business.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior said that almost all of the relief funds paid out during the first half of the year in credit card form have been depleted, with some half of the amount spent on dining and grocery shopping.
The government had distributed relief funds totaling 14.3 trillion won to all households from May 4 to Aug. 24 in a move to help people cushion the economic impact of the pandemic and to revitalize the stalled domestic economy. The amount of the handouts varied from 400,000 won for single-person households to 1 million won for households with four or more members.
Finance Vice Minister Ahn Il-hwan. (Yonhap)