Revised bill on earthquake aid submitted

A nonpartisan group of lawmakersconsisting of four opposition parties submitted a bill June 3 to the Diet aimed at providing financial aid to households that have seen their income considerably reduced due to the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995.

The bill replaced another, similar bill submitted last month by the same group of lawmakers, who belong to Shinshinto, the Democratic Party of Japan, the Taiyo Party and another small parliamentary group.

The new bill, which is much smaller in terms of the size of financial assistance than the original one, was intended to improve its chances of being passed by obtaining wider support from lawmakers at a time when the nation is trying to reduce its worsening fiscal deficit, said Kazuyoshi Akaba, a Lower House member of Shinshinto who played a leading role in drafting the bill. Proposed support measures in the new bill include a one-time payment of 500,000 yen per member of a household whose annual income for fiscal 1996 was less than two thirds of that of fiscal 1994.

However, the ceiling of the amount of money to be granted to one household would be set at 2.5 million yen. Eligible households would be limited to those with a low annual income, for instance, 4.7 million yen for a household of four members. Households consisting only of people aged 65 and over whose income in fiscal 1995 was less than 3.9 million yen would be provided with 20,000 yen monthly through December 1998, the bill said.

Those who have lost their jobs or family businesses due to the quake would be able to borrow up to 10 million yen at a low interest rate to resume their businesses. If enacted, 180 billion yen will be necessary to implement the programs, Akaba said.

The size of the expected budget would be much smaller than that expected in the original bill, which also included a provision to lend up to 20 million yen at a low interest rate for people whose houses were destroyed by the quake.