By Lee Hana
President Moon Jae-in on March 30 announced a substantial raise in an emergency financial aid package for vulnerable groups as well as small and medium companies, small business owners and the self-employed affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the third meeting of an emergency economic council at Cheong Wa Dae, he said the government would "defer or exempt payment of the four major social insurance premiums and electricity bills for low-income families as well as SMEs, microbusiness owners and the self-employed that are below a certain size."
The four insurances are those for health, national pension, employment and industrial accident compensation.
The president said he hopes this measure alleviates the living expense burden on low-income groups while allowing small businesses to stay in full operation through maintenance of management and employment.
"In addition, we've significantly increased subsidies to help businesses maintain employment and expanded various livelihood support measures for the vulnerable who’ve fallen through the cracks of the employment safety net," he said.
"Along with enhancing job security, these increases are expected to greatly help protect the livelihoods of those on unpaid leave, the contract-based self-employed, freelancers and day laborers. In addition, they will provide significant assistance to microbusiness owners who've suffered damage from the COVID-19 outbreak, helping them recover their operations or close their businesses and get back on their feet."
"(We have also) made a decision to provide emergency relief payments for those in the bottom 70 percent of the income bracket, including the middle class, which go up to KRW 1 million for a family of four."
"With regard to the emergency relief payments, swift distribution is paramount; our plan is to quickly submit a second supplementary budget bill and have the National Assembly pass it within April, right after the general election."
Asking for full parliamentary cooperation in this matter, President Moon said, "We believe it's necessary to shore up the livelihoods of people in need and provide the public with comfort and encouragement in return for their having joined forces to surmount the crisis as the principal agents in the quarantine efforts, even sacrificing their daily lives."
"These payments will play a significant role in reviving our economy by promoting consumption at the time when the COVID-19 outbreak is brought under control."