Complaints flow over welfare benefit cuts

Kyodo

Welfare recipients are asking local governments to reverse the benefit cuts launched in August, with at least 500 people filing requests in Tokyo alone on Tuesday.

Appeals were lodged in 24 other prefectures, advocacy groups said, adding that they expect more than 7,600 requests to be filed across Japan by month’s end, far more than typically received in an entire year.

By comparison, 1,086 requests for benefit reassessments were filed in fiscal 2009, according to the welfare ministry.

Some recipients plan to bring their cases jointly to court if their requests are denied, according to the groups — Zenseiren (All Japan Federation of Organizations for the Protection of Life and Health), based in Tokyo, and another group in Osaka Prefecture. The groups held a press conference at the ministry.

Cuts in welfare support for food, utilities and other living expenses kicked in on Aug. 1. The benchmark sum was lowered by 1.5 percent, the first cut since fiscal 2004, to take account of deflation.

The cut will be carried out in stages until fiscal 2015, for a budget reduction of ¥67 billion. About 96 percent of the receiving households are subject to the measure.

In Tokyo, a 55-year-old man reported that his monthly payment had been cut by ¥1,600.

“Large electricity bills have been a problem during the summer,” he said. “I’m concerned that if the government reduces the payment once, it may introduce more cuts in the future easily.”

Welfare minister Norihisa Tamura said, “As I believe the government has been dealing with the matter appropriately, I want to watch further developments.”

Payouts to low earners

JIJI

The Abe administration plans to provide low-income earners with ¥10,000 in cash benefits to cushion the blow if the consumption tax is raised next April, informed sources said.

The one-time payments, set to cover members of families exempt from local residential taxes, will cost the government an estimated ¥240 billion, the sources said. It plans to include the program in an economic stimulus package to be compiled by the month’s end.

Finance Minister Taro Aso and economic and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari are set to hold their final talks on the package later this week, the sources said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to make his final decision early next month on whether to raise the 5 percent consumption tax to 8 percent in April 2014 as planned for the first stage.