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[Newsmaker] Gyeonggi governor announces in-province universal COVID-19 relief handouts

Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung announces his government's plan to provide universal COVID-19 relief handouts to all residents in a news conference at his office in Suwon, 50 km south of Seoul, on Friday. (Yonhap)
Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung announces his government's plan to provide universal COVID-19 relief handouts to all residents in a news conference at his office in Suwon, 50 km south of Seoul, on Friday. (Yonhap)
Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung on Friday announced his decision to provide universal COVID-19 relief funds to all provincial residents, contrary to the central government's policy of selective relief payments.

Lee, the front-running presidential contender for the ruling Democratic Party, vowed to ensure that all 14 million residents in the province, which surrounds Seoul, will benefit from the government's upcoming emergency disaster relief handouts.

In late July, the National Assembly passed a 34.9 trillion-won ($30.3 billion) extra budget bill primarily aimed at providing individuals in the bottom 88 percent income bracket with stimulus checks worth 250,000 won per person.

Lee said in a news conference that he will pay the same relief handouts even to the provincial residents who belong to the top 12 percent income bracket excluded from the central government's relief grants.

"All people are suffering from COVID-19, though the severity of damage varies from person to person. Thus, all the people who suffered together, actively cooperated with the government's quarantine measures and shared a heavy burden should be compensated equally," Lee said.

About a week ago, the governor said he was considering providing support funds to all provincial residents using the province's own coffers, prompting both ruling and opposition lawmakers to accuse him of trying to use his governor's post to boost his presidential bid.

The government of Gyeonggi Province, the nation's most populous province with 13.99 million residents, including 580,000 foreign nationals, estimates that the relief scheme for the top 12 percent, or about 1.66 million residents, would cost 415.1 billion won.

The provincial government said it will pay 373.6 billion won of the total, with the remaining 41.5 billion won to be shouldered by cities and counties in the province.

Gyeonggi has so far given out its own COVID-19 relief handout of 100,000 won per person twice -- in April 2020 and February 2021. (Yonhap)
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