Date
20 September 2019
Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung said applicants for the Caring and Sharing Scheme only need to give proof of their personal identity, residential address and bank account details. Photo: Bloomberg/RTHK
Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung said applicants for the Caring and Sharing Scheme only need to give proof of their personal identity, residential address and bank account details. Photo: Bloomberg/RTHK

Govt vows ‘user-friendly’ application procedure for cash handout

The government has done its best to simplify the application procedure for a HK$4,000 cash handout, Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said, amid complaints that many people found the arrangement for the scheme confusing.

Speaking to reporters before attending a regular Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Cheung said he has reminded staff to make the application procedure very “user-friendly” and maximize “the scope of user-friendliness”, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Under the Caring and Sharing Scheme, a person, who holds a Hong Kong Identity Card and meets several eligibility criteria, can receive HK$4,000 through an application. The government expects some two million people to benefit from the scheme.

Application forms for this handout were made available from Monday and the government will accept applications between Feb. 1 and April 30.

But according to media reports, some applicants were unable to obtain the forms at some Home Affairs Enquiry Centres of the Home Affairs Department on Monday.

Cheung admitted that so far only one million copies of the application form have been prepared, but said more would be available to meet the demand.

He also said he will ask staff to provide blank paper for qualified applicants to print out the form at the form distribution centers.

On Wednesday, a government press release said additional Chinese application forms for the scheme will be available in batches from Wednesday for collection by the public at the Home Affairs Enquiry Centres, the Working Family Allowance Office and the Student Finance Office of the Working Family and Student Financial Assistance Agency.

“About 900,000 of the first tranche of 1 million Chinese application forms have been distributed so far and additional copies will be available in batches in the coming days. Application forms can also be downloaded from the website of the Scheme (css.gov.hk),” the release said.

Cheung said applicants need only provide proof of their personal identity, residential address and bank account details.

He said such documents are essential because of the need to strike a balance “between user-friendliness on the one hand, and accountability, particularly when public money is concerned, on the other”.

Asked why online application was not adopted, Cheung asked for understanding from the public, saying the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau worried that building a reliable system that ensures proper function for the purpose would take about 18 months, including the time for handling tender submissions, and therefore cause the handout to be delayed.

Lawmaker Charles Mok Nai-kwong, who represents the information technology sector, doubted the time estimate given, noting that such a system would only take three to six months to complete.

It is only a matter of whether the government has the heart to do it or not, Mok said.

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