Japan to use 2.17 tril. yen from reserve funds for virus-hit sectors

©Kyodo News

Japan's Cabinet decided Tuesday to use 2.17 trillion yen ($20 billion) in reserve funds for fiscal 2020 to financially support businesses and households suffering from the prolonged impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding includes 1.54 trillion yen for local authorities to aid restaurants and bars that comply with requests to close early as part of anti-COVID-19 measures. Municipalities will be able to provide 40,000 yen per day in subsidies to such operators.

The government's second state of emergency, initially declared for the Tokyo metropolitan area in early January but expanded to 11 prefectures within a week, was fully lifted Sunday after the number of new virus cases fell significantly.

But amid concerns over a potential "fourth wave" of infections as the decrease in new cases levels off, the request for dining establishments to shorten hours will remain until the end of March, although the 9 p.m. closing time now sought is an hour later than under the emergency.

For households whose income has dropped sharply due to the pandemic, the government has earmarked 341.0 billion yen to extend a program providing no-interest loans of up to 200,000 yen per household for three months to the end of June.

Another 217.5 billion yen has been allocated to offer cash handouts of 50,000 yen per child to child-rearing households living in poverty.

The government has almost used up the 11.50 trillion yen it set aside in reserve funds for the current fiscal year through March for use in response to the pandemic, with Tuesday's Cabinet decision leaving just 508.0 billion yen remaining.

Other than the use of reserve funds, the Cabinet also decided to beef up financing measures for cash-strapped businesses in the food and accommodation service sectors, such as enabling government financial institutions to lend money alone, instead of co-financing with private institutions in principle.

"As the government, we'll protect jobs, be there for those who keep their business running, and give detailed responses," Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a meeting of relevant ministers.