Govt mulls HK$10k handout for qualified non-permanent residents

March 04, 2020 13:19
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said the Community Card Fund may distribute HK$10,000 each to eligible non-permanent residents. Photo: HKEJ

The government is considering granting eligible new immigrants in the city the same HK$10,000 cash handout for adult permanent residents unveiled in the latest budget.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong told a radio program on Tuesday that the Community Care Fund will discuss in a meeting this month the feasibility of distributing the amount through the fund to non-permanent residents who came to Hong Kong for family reunion or on one-way permits and have resided in the city for less than seven years, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The money would be for such non-permanent residents who are in need of financial assistance, Law said.

The labor chief cited a precedent in 2011, when each permanent resident received a HK$6,000 cash giveaway and each non-permanent resident received the same amount more than six months later.

Law said all applicants must pass asset tests, which he said will be as loose as possible, such as in the form of random checks.

Asked whether the cash handout will be of timely help to those non-permanent residents in need, Law admitted he is not yet sure if the money can be distributed by the end of July, but the objective is to do it as soon as possible.

He said he understands that the later the money is given, the more likely many people may have difficulty coping with their current situation.

Law also said that while making adult permanent residents the only ones qualified for the cash handout may not be the fairest, it is the fastest and most direct way to disburse the money, and it will not be legally challenged easily.

Meanwhile, a government source revealed that no money has been budgeted so far for the HK$10,000 cash handout for non-permanent residents, stressing that details have to be discussed at a meeting of the Community Care Fund’s task force this month and have to be approved by the Commission on Poverty.

Commenting on the additional cash giveaways, lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung of the Labour Party said the government should have included the planned spending in the budget instead of letting the fund take charge of the matter.

Cheung also said it is not ideal for the government to bypass the Legislative Council and go ahead with the disbursement that will involve billions of Hong Kong dollars.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told reporters before the regular Executive Council meeting on Tuesday that all of the spending plans unveiled in the 2020-21 budget, including the HK$10,000 cash handout, are for the sake of Hong Kong people and they do not run counter to her administration’s fiscal philosophy or attitude toward governance.

Lam said she is aware that expansionary fiscal measures will put public finance under pressure and as such, she will lead her team to seek ways to re-strengthen the economy and identify new areas of growth.

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