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(LEAD) S. Korea seeks extra budget for aid to virus-hit families

All News 15:31 March 30, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with details of announcement in paras 4-12; ADDS photo)
By Kim Kwang-tae

SEOUL, March 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Monday it will push for a second extra budget worth 7.1 trillion won (US$5.8 billion) to provide shopping coupons and gift certificates to more than half of the country's households to help minimize the economic fallout from the spread of the new coronavirus outbreak.

The government said it would set aside 9.1 trillion won for the relief package for 14 million low-income households that comprise 35 million in a country with a population of 51 million.

Under the plan, up to 1 million won would be given to each household with four or more people that rank in the bottom 70 percent of gross income, according to the Ministry of Finance and Economy.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki makes an announcement about an aid package for virus-hit families in a news conference in Seoul on March 30, 2010, in this photo provided by the Ministry of Finance and Economy. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said the government plans to hand out shopping coupons or gift certificates instead of cash to stimulate spending.

He also said the government will quickly submit the extra budget bill to the National Assembly for approval. The parliament has already approved an 11.7 trillion-won supplementary budget plan over the coronavirus.

The government "promises that it will mobilize all resources and act boldly and quickly until the crisis ends," Hong said in a news conference at the government complex building in central Seoul.

In South Korea, COVID-19 has killed 158 people, mostly elderly patients with underlying illnesses, and infected 9,661 others.

South Korea has strengthened social distancing through April 5 to try to contain the spread of the virus.

Hong said the government stands ready to provide any additional support to the people at any time.

The proposed extra budget will be created by readjusting existing spending plans and cost-cutting measures, according to the minister.

South Korea said virus-hit smaller companies will be exempt from paying the national pension, employment insurance, industrial accident compensation insurance and electricity bills for three months.

The government said it will cut health insurance premiums and industrial accident compensation insurance premiums by 30 percent for up to six months.


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