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Who gets the cash handouts, and how?

by Masami Ito

The Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc rammed legislation related to the fiscal 2008 second extra budget through the Diet Wednesday amid strong protests from the opposition parties.

With the passage of the bills, Prime Minister Taro Aso will finally be able to issue his controversial cash handouts. The program is a key economic goal.

Following are questions and answers about the handouts:

Who will be eligible to receive the handouts?

All Japanese residents who are listed in the citizen resident registry and all foreigners who have applied to the foreign resident registry as of Feb. 1 will be eligible.

Those who are in Japan on short-term visas and those who have illegally overstayed their visas will not be.

Newborns, however, will be eligible for the handout even if they were not listed in the Japanese or foreign registries on Feb. 1, providing they were born before that day.

What about homeless people, who are not in the registry, and victims of domestic violence who are registered under their abuser’s name?

The fundamental rule is that a person must have a registered address, said an official at the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, adding that various local governments are currently urging people to apply for registration.

In such cases, the official said the Feb. 1 deadline does not apply, but the registered address must be a residence and not a public site, for example a park.

For victims of domestic violence, it is unlikely they will be able to collect the money unless they remove themselves from their partner’s registry, because application forms are only sent to the head of the household.

How much money will be distributed?

The government will shoulder ¥2.4 trillion in total for the scheme. Each individual applicant will be given ¥12,000 and those who are 18 or younger or 65 or older will receive an additional ¥8,000.

The opposition camp, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, strongly protested using the vast sum in taxpayer money for the handouts.

They argued that the money should be used more effectively, including bolstering the pension system, or for medical treatment or education. Media polls also showed the public mainly feels the money should be used for other purposes.

How do you receive the money?

Documents from the local government will arrive by mail for the registered head of the household to fill out, including the account to which the money is to be paid into. The application can either be mailed or delivered by hand to the nearest local government office.

The total amount of money per household will be paid into the designated account. Those who cannot have the money transferred into an account can choose to receive it in cash at the municipal office.

Because foreigners are not registered per household, the cash, in principle, must be handed out to each individually registered foreigner. This means applications will be sent to each foreigner and they must be filled out separately.

But a parent can act as a legal proxy for children and get the money on their behalf.

Is there a time limit to file the application?

Yes. Applications for the handout must be filed within six months from the date the local government begins to accept applications.

When will the money actually be distributed?

The money can be handed out as early as Thursday, the day after the related bills to the supplementary budget of fiscal 2008 clear the Diet. Two municipalities have said that they will start handing out the cash Thursday.

But many local governments are still preparing to send out the documents to homes.

The government is aiming to have the money distributed before the fiscal year ends on March 31, the official said, noting that might be difficult to achieve, especially in densely populated urban areas.