Some homeless people are still being left out of the government's ¥100,000 coronavirus cash handout even as many municipalities nationwide are set to close applications for the scheme by the end of this month.
Supporters say that those who need the money the most are being left behind, calling on local governments to extend their application deadlines or distribute the money to even homeless people without residence registrations.
To receive the cash benefit, citizens must make an application at the relevant municipal government, but those without residence registrations, such as homeless people, cannot do this.
"I've given up, thinking it's impossible," said a 63-year-old man who came to a park in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward to receive free food from a support group on the night of Aug. 15. He has been living on the streets for about 25 years, and his residence registration has already been canceled. What little income he gains from collecting empty cans has decreased due to the effects of the coronavirus epidemic.
"I'm also suffering," he said. "It's unfair, because the money was supposed to be handed out to everyone."
Under the rules for the program, the application period is set at three months or less, and many municipalities are set to stop accepting applications by the end of August. According to the internal affairs ministry, 98.1 percent of all households had received the money as of Aug. 14.
All citizens on the basic residence register as of April 27 are eligible for the handout, so homeless people can also apply if they are registered at a municipality.
Some municipalities are assisting homeless people by working to see if their names are registered with a municipality and carrying out application procedures on their behalf.
At issue are cases in which people were stripped of residence registrations due to lack of proof of residence or other reasons. Those registered after April 27 can also apply for the cash handout, but parks and streets cannot be used as addresses for residence.
The ministry has said that internet cafes, for example, can be registered as places of residence for homeless people if the store operators consent. According to the Japan Complex Cafe Association, however, none of its member facilities allows this.
The Shibuya Ward office started accepting the addresses of support organizations as places of residence for homeless people as the deadline for applications approached.
"We want as many people as possible to receive the money, but residence registrations can't be done without proof of residence," a ward representative said.
According to a January survey by the welfare ministry, there are 3,992 homeless people across the country.
"Even if half of those people do not have residence registrations, that's only around 2,000 people, so it's not much trouble to implement special measures" to help them receive the relief money, said Takachiho University professor Masato Kimura, who has long been engaged in activities to aid homeless people.
"There are ways to prevent double payment of the benefits, such as conducting identity checks at municipalities and having the internal affairs ministry manage the records of applications," he said.
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