(LEAD) Cheong Wa Dae urges lawmakers to pass extra budget bill for coronavirus relief funds
(ATTN: UPDATES with details in last 5 paras; ADDS photo, byline)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, April 24 (Yonhap) -- The office of President Moon Jae-in pressed South Korea's parliament Friday to pass a multibillion-dollar supplementary budget bill designed for the payment of "emergency disaster relief money" to most households in the nation.
Cheong Wa Dae said it's preparing to begin paying cash early next month, emphasizing the urgency of handing out the money.
"President Moon stressed that the government should pay the money at the earliest possible date so that the people can get it in a rapid and convenient way," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kang Min-seok said at a press briefing.
The Moon administration announced at the end of March that it would grant the direct financial support of up to 1 million won (US$808) to all families here except the top 30 percent by income.
The government soon submitted a 7.6 trillion-won extra budget bill to the National Assembly to fund the program.
The ruling Democratic Party has proposed expanding the scope of beneficiaries to all households amid concern about the time and cost necessary for administrative procedures to sort out the eligible.
The liberal party has set April 29 as the deadline for the handling of the bill.
The conservative main opposition United Future Party, however, has been apparently dragging its feet about another supplementary budget.
Cheong Wa Dae said related authorities are working to start sending cash to around 2.7 million of the low-income families and those living on the disability pension, already listed for a welfare policy, on May 4 mainly through online accounts.
The government would then receive applications from the other families starting on May 11 to begin payments two days later, a senior Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.
In order to meet the schedule, lawmakers should pass the budget bill no later than the end of this month, he added.
"We are considering various methods" in case of a scenario where the National Assembly does not approve the budget scheme, he said without elaborating.
Later in the day, the Ministry of Economy and Finance made public a decision to increase the size of the planned extra budget to 11.2 trillion won to hand out payments to all 21.7 million households here, instead of 70 percent. It suggested the issuance of 3.6 trillion won worth of bonds to fill the gap.
The ministry was initially negative about the offer, citing budget constraints. After several rounds of consultations, the government and the DP agreed to broaden the program, which is the party's latest parliamentary election campaign pledge.
As part of efforts to reduce budget burden, the government plans to ask the wealthy to voluntarily give their share back as donations.
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