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No vote in Legco on relief package

2020-04-17 HKT 12:08
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  • No vote in Legco on relief package
Lawmakers spent hours on Friday scrutinising the government's massive coronavirus relief package, but no vote was taken at the Finance Committee and the meeting will continue on Saturday.

The marathon session began earlier in the day and lasted until 11 pm.

Under the HK$137.5 billion package of anti-epidemic relief measures, HK$80 billion will go towards the Employment Support Scheme, where the government will pay half of workers' salaries for six months, capped at HK$9,000 a month, as long as those companies don't sack staff.

But critics have said the scheme does not do enough and excludes many people such as freelance or casual workers, employees aged 65 and over, or those who have been made redundant recently.

Self-employed people are eligible for a separate HK$7,500 subsidy, but they are also required to have an MPF account.

Two major pro-government parties, the DAB and the Federation of Trade Unions, have indicated they will vote in favour of the package despite misgivings.

They said while some workers don't stand to benefit, the package does offer much-needed relief to businesses and individuals.

Still, there are calls for the government to roll out a third round of measures to help those left out so far.

"We will continue to urge the government to follow up, but I think what is the most important thing is we need to make sure this package is approved in Legco, and we don't want the people to wait and suffer because there is an imminent need from the public, that they do need the money," DAB lawmaker Holden Chow said.

But the Democratic Party has made it clear it will vote against the package, saying it fails to help the unemployed and certain sectors.

"The government really has to listen to the people’s voices, really has to listen to the sectors’ voices as [well], to assure the public money that has been spent really helps different people when they’re encountering difficulties," party chairman Wu Chi-wai said.

Another government critic, Civic Passion's Cheng Chung-tai, said it was "heartbreaking" to see people in the music and film industries miss out on the handouts, while people who sell peanuts or operate crane-claw game machines’ stand to benefit.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung appealed to lawmakers to pass the relief package as soon as possible, saying that more than a million people stand to benefit from measures.
Last updated: 2020-04-17 HKT 23:56