Government eyes more relief funds for small merchants under proposed extra budget: minister

South Korea's top economic policymaker said Monday the government will consider the dispersal of more relief funds to small merchants hit by the pandemic under its proposed extra budget.

The fourth wave of the pandemic has spurred calls to revise a proposed extra budget of 33 trillion won (US$28.8 billion) as the toughest-ever virus curbs will likely cause more damage to the self-employed.

On July 12, South Korea began imposing Level 4 social distancing rules, the highest-level in its four-tier scheme, in the greater capital area, for two weeks to stem spiking virus cases.

From Monday, non-metropolitan areas were also put under toughened virus restrictions.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki ordered finance ministry officials to draw up measures to increase support to the pandemic-hit merchants under the proposed supplementary budget scheme.

Of the extra budget, the government earmarked 3.9 trillion won to provide relief funds to struggling small business owners and to compensate them for losses caused by business restrictions.

Parliamentary committees are seeking to increase support to such people, but the finance minister has been cautious about jacking up the size of the extra budget, presenting negative views about a potential debt sale to finance a larger supplementary budget.

He is also opposed to the provision of universal support to all households, citing the country's growing national debt. The ruling Democratic Party wants another cash handout to all households, instead of the government's proposal to give relief aid to people in the bottom 80 percent income bracket.

But the minister said he is open to revising details about cash-back reward schemes for credit card spending. The government set aside 1.1 trillion won for the program in a bid to boost spending in the second half.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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