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(2nd LD) Virus-hit small merchants to get financial lifelines from supplementary budget

Politics 22:40 September 22, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details in 13th para, photo; REPLACES last photo)

SEOUL, Sept. 22 (Yonhap) -- Owners of small businesses and self-employed people hit hard by a recent resurgence of the new coronavirus in the country will get financial aid from the government under a new extra budget that passed the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The 7.8 trillion-won (US$6.7 billion) extra spending aims to cushion the economic impact from the virus resurgence in mid-August. It centers on some 3.8 trillion won allotted for 3.77 million people affected by the virus, including 3.2 trillion won to be distributed as New Hope financial assistance for 2.91 million small business owners and self-employed people.

Under the New Hope aid plan, business owners with annual sales of 400 million won or less will receive 1 million won each if they experienced any dent in sales since the resurgence.

Those whose businesses were suspended due to tight social distancing will be granted 2 million won per person, while 1.5 million won will go to each of those whose businesses were restricted during the distancing, such as restaurants, bars and bakeries.

Tables and chairs are moved to a corner of a large cafe in downtown Seoul in preparation for the government's heightened social distancing rules that go into effect on Aug. 30, 2020. (Yonhap)
A street in Jongno, one of the busiest districts in Seoul, is mostly empty on Aug. 19, 2020, as high-risk facilities, including karaoke rooms, clubs and PC cafes, were ordered to shut down for two weeks amid a spike in coronavirus cases in the country. (Yonhap)

Young people aged between 16 and 34 and senior citizens aged 65 or above will each receive 20,000 won in mobile service subsidy.

The extra budget will also cover financial assistance for a greater number of taxi drivers and parents with young children than initially proposed by the government.

Parents with pre-school and elementary-age children will be entitled to 200,000 won per child while those with middle school children will get 150,000 won per child. Daycare centers and schools had been ordered to shut down in the aftermath of the virus resurgence to avert infection risks among children and students.

The extra budget bill also includes 1.4 trillion won in spending to sustain around 1.19 million jobs.

The spending package also includes a budget on vaccinating more than 1 million disabled and low-income people against influenza as well as spending assigned for stockpiling COVID-19 vaccines to cover 20 percent of the South Korean population, according to party officials.

A traditional market in central Seoul is empty on Sept. 10, 2020, amid a resurgence of COVID-19. (Yonhap)

The budget bill passed the National Assembly's plenary session in an overwhelming 272-1 vote following a last-minute agreement on the bill's configuration between rival parties. Nine lawmakers abstained.

The floor leaders of the ruling Democratic Party and the main opposition People Power Party reached the deal only hours before it was put to a vote in the full-floor session as the government is under pressure to dole out the emergency assistance before the Chuseok holiday next week.

The bill is the fourth extra budget drawn up this year to fend off the impact of the pandemic on the economy, especially on small merchants and self-employed people hit harder by the second wave of infections.

About 59 trillion won was approved in the previous three rounds of COVID-19 response extra budget setting between March and July. It is the first time since 1961 that the country has drawn up four rounds of extra budget in one year.

The government is planning to dole out the majority of the new emergency assistance package before the Chuseok autumn harvest holiday, which falls on Oct. 1 this year.

Lawmakers pass a 7.8 trillion-won (US$6.7 billion) supplementary budget at a plenary session of the National Assembly in Seoul on Sept. 22, 2020, (Yonhap)
Democratic Party floor leader Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon (L) and People Power Party floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young shake hands after reaching an agreement on the configuration of the fourth COVID-19 response extra budget, at the National Assembly in Seoul, on Sept. 22, 2020. (Yonhap)

pbr@yna.co.kr
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