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(LEAD) Ruling party will seek extra budget to prepare 4th round of COVID-19 relief fund: chief

All News 14:45 February 02, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more comments in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, Feb. 2 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Democratic Party (DP) will seek an extra state budget to provide the fourth round of a COVID-19 relief fund, party Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon said Tuesday.

"(The DP) will prepare the fourth round of the disaster assistance fund. It will draw up a sufficient supplementary budget," the party chief said in his parliamentary speech marking the recent launch of a monthlong extra parliamentary session.

Since May last year, the government has distributed more than 31 trillion won (US$27.8 billion) to households, as well as small merchants and business owners, through three rounds of a COVID-19 relief fund. The new round of the relief fund, if decided, is roughly estimated to take more than 20 trillion won in extra government spending.

Lee said the upcoming discussion will focus on providing universal relief handouts to all households and additional assistance for those who have fallen victim to the pandemic.

"To the vulnerable and victimized people who were driven to the precipice by disease prevention measures, the assistance will be given abundantly," he said.

As with the envisioned universal stimulus checks to all, the party will pick the right timing for its provision, depending on how well the pandemic fares, he added.

Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon addresses the National Assembly on Feb. 2, 2021. (Yonhap)

Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon addresses the National Assembly on Feb. 2, 2021. (Yonhap)

A day earlier, President Moon Jae-in also alluded to the need to offer additional COVID-19 response assistance to small merchants and business owners forced to close or cut down operations to contain the virus.

"Even after the third round of the relief fund, assistance is falling far short of averting damage (to small business owners and the self-employed)," Moon said in a meeting with his top aides Monday.

"The government may have to seek assistance measures to (offset) their damage incurred by state disease prevention measures until a relevant system is established," the president noted.

The ruling party leader also voiced hope that the South Korea-U.S. alliance, as well as Seoul's Korean Peninsula peace initiative, will advance further under the leadership of U.S. President Joe Biden.

"I hope North Korea, on its part, will not miss this valuable moment. It would be a reckless idea to try to boost its negotiating power through a show of force," Lee said.

As for labor issues, the party leader vowed to establish a new government agency overseeing workplace safety affairs and expand the national employment insurance to all walks of life.


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