Almost everybody — including some foreigners — eligible for cash handout

Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Report

People of all income levels in principle, including some foreigners, will basically be eligible for the planned cash handouts aimed at giving some relief during increasingly tough economic times, the internal affairs ministry said Friday.

The eligible include Japanese nationals whose names are on local resident registers as of a designated date, which is expected to be either Jan. 1 or Feb. 1, and foreigners with permanent resident status, or with spouse or dependent visas.

Foreigners with so-called permanent settler status, such as descendants of Japanese immigrants to South America and so-called Japanese war orphans left behind in China, will also be eligible.

Of the 2.08 million foreigners in Japan, those falling in the above categories totaled 1.37 million as of March 31, 2007, according to the Justice Ministry.

The ministry said it has yet to decide if the government pays compensation to foreigners who are in Japan on work or student visas.

“Prime Minister Taro Aso first said the benefits should be distributed to all households and we should stick to that policy,” said Kunio Hatoyama, minister of internal affairs and communications, said at the day’s press conference.

Speaking to a gathering of representatives from local governments, Hiromi Okazaki, the ministry’s director general for policy coordination, said, “We intend to revise our program after listening to your views and work out a simple plan that is not time-consuming.”

Under the draft plan unveiled Friday, local governments are free to exclude people making more than ¥18 million a year from the new ¥2 trillion economic stimulus program. They can also request such affluent residents waive the benefits.

However, few local governments are expected to impose an income cap because clerical work to confirm income levels of each household would be too troublesome.

Municipalities will be charged with the work of distributing the money and carrying out the relevant paperwork.

The ministry aims to work out further specifics by December before the cash is distributed starting in March as scheduled.