• Jiji


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday that his government will consider providing ¥100,000 in cash per person, without setting an income limit, in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi told Abe that the government should hand out such benefits as an additional measure to shore up an economy that has been hit hard by the coronavirus’s spread. Komeito is the junior coalition partner of Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Abe replied that such a step will be considered after the enactment of a supplementary budget for fiscal 2020.

After the meeting, Yamaguchi told reporters that the government’s declaration of a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas over the COVID-19 crisis last week has left “an extensive and deep impact” on the economy and society.

The government “should deliver a message of encouragement and solidarity to the people,” he stressed, adding that he encouraged Abe to make a decision.

“It is my understanding that he accepted (my request) in a positive way,” he added.

For the government’s recently adopted emergency economic stimulus package, Komeito had proposed a cash handout of ¥100,000 per person for those who have suffered an income plunge due to the outbreak.

On Tuesday, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai also said he will ask the government to consider a cash handout of ¥100,000 per head to those whose incomes stand below a certain level.

The government included in the package the distribution of ¥300,000 in cash to households whose incomes have fallen sharply. But both the ruling and opposition parties have questioned the measure with its strict eligibility requirements.

Apparently responding to the criticism, the government is likely to give cash benefits of ¥300,000 to households if a person other than the head of a family suffers a sudden decrease in income. Under the current plan, the government will decide whether to provide the benefit based on the monthly income level of the head of a given household, in principle.

With victims of domestic violence who live in places different from their original address in mind, the government now hopes to make the financial support more flexible, as there are various situations among households that are having difficulty making a living due to a drop in income, the sources said.

“In some families, a person other than the head of household brings home the bacon,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference the same day. He said the government will have discussions so that the measure will support such cases.

The government will fix details, such as eligibility criteria, after hearing opinions from municipalities, which will serve as the point of contact for application.

Also expected to be included in the coverage are college students who have had their job offers canceled due to the deteriorating economy caused by the spread of the virus.

For the cash benefit program, the government has set uniform income amounts as the eligibility standard. For example, a single-member household will receive financial aid if that person’s monthly income decreases to ¥100,000 or less, or ¥200,000 or less in case it is halved, in any month between February and June.

The government is aiming to start providing the funds to households next month, while the cash benefit payments may be delayed to this summer in some municipalities.

For the cash distribution, it is basically necessary for local governments to get related supplementary budgets to be passed as they will be in charge of processing the provision of the money.

The central government hopes that local leaders will use their authority granted under the local autonomy law to speed up procedures for the cash handouts, a key measure in the government’s emergency economic package.

The law allows a local leader to make decisions on administrative matters without approval from the local assembly if there is not enough time to convene a session.

“We’re stepping up preparations so that the distribution of the cash benefits will start in as many municipalities as possible next month,” Abe told a Lower House plenary meeting Tuesday.

As Abe has been reiterating his determination to start the cash handout program in May, the government and the ruling coalition are poised to redouble efforts to realize the prime minister’s pledge by enacting the central government’s supplementary budget for fiscal 2020 later this month.

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