The government has announced an outline of procedures for providing ¥100,000 in cash to each member of the public across the board.
It is urgent to extend assistance to people whose income has been cut off for such reasons as business closures. The central and local governments should make every effort to promptly distribute the money.
The cash payout has been included in a package of emergency economic measures to deal with the spread of the new coronavirus. The government has shelved its initial plan to provide ¥300,000 to households whose income has dropped and taken the unusual step of reworking a supplementary budget plan for this fiscal year.
The current measure is easier to understand than the initial plan, in which each household’s income status would have been checked and its eligibility for the financial aid then determined. The administrative work of local governments will also be simplified. The aim of increasing the speed of the procedures seems appropriate.
However, because the supplementary budget plan has been changed, Diet deliberations will be delayed. The government is urged to reflect seriously on its waste of time in coordinating opinion.
Under the envisioned procedures, municipal governments will first send to each household an application form with the names of all the members of the household as of April 27 based on the Basic Resident Register Network System. The head of the household will fill in the necessary information, such as where the money should be transferred, and send back the application form.
To prevent the spread of the virus, these procedures will be undertaken by mail, in principle. If My Number cards are used, applications can be made online. Some people will be allowed to receive the cash at local government offices, such as those who do not have bank accounts.
The plan is to transfer all the money for each household to one account designated by that household. The central government expects small local governments to start distributing the money in May.
Will this system ensure that the money arrives quickly, or is there the possibility of serious problems? Further improvements need to be scrutinized.
Local governments need to urgently secure personnel for clerical work. It is hoped there will be room for ingenuity in improving the system while utilizing expertise from the private sector, for example by mechanizing the reading of application forms.
The ¥100,000 provision is available together with other support programs, including a cash payout for people who run one-person businesses. The amount of welfare benefits is expected to remain unchanged. However, some people are concerned about whether their pension benefits will be reduced. It is essential for the government to thoroughly explain such matters.
A situation in which disadvantaged members of society cannot receive support must be avoided.
Some people, such as victims of domestic violence, live in places different from the address on their residence certificate. How to provide the aid to elderly people and children in welfare facilities will also be an issue. Meticulous attention is required.
Fraudulent emails aiming to swindle people out of the public financial assistance are already reported to be going around. It is important to put the public thoroughly on guard, to prevent crimes that take advantage of the pandemic.