No subsidies for 140,000 self-employed people - RTHK
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No subsidies for 140,000 self-employed people

2020-06-25 HKT 19:57
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  • Many casual workers, including these freelance musicians, have complained that the eligibility requirements for the handout scheme are too stringent. File Photo: RTHK
    Many casual workers, including these freelance musicians, have complained that the eligibility requirements for the handout scheme are too stringent. File Photo: RTHK
More than half of all applications by freelancers and casual workers for a HK$7,500 coronavirus handout have been rejected by the government – because they did not comply with stringent eligibility requirements.

A government spokesman revealed on Thursday that around 140,000 of 259,860 applications received have been rejected “due to ineligibility.”

The one-off handout was part of the Government’s HK$137.5 billion relief package announced in April, and was aimed at helping self-employed people who were struggling to deal with the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But the plan has been widely criticised for its many requirements that many freelancers say they don’t meet.

Under the Employment Support Scheme, applicants must have an active Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) account especially for ‘self-employed persons’ (SEP) as of March 31.

Casual workers who have other types of MPF accounts, or set up after March 31 are ineligible.

A government spokesman said most of the applicants did not meet the requirements.

"Applications for one-off lump-sum subsidy are denied mostly because they were based on an employee MPF account or a personal account created after termination of previous self-employment instead of a dedicated self-employed persons MPF account, or the relevant self-employed persons MPF accounts had already been terminated as of March 31,” he said.

The government says according to information provided by the MPF Authority, there are about 215,000 self-employed workers who are eligible for the subsidy.

However, only 74,000 successful applications have been processed so far, involving a total sum of HK$560 million.

Another 40,000 applications are being processed ‘expeditiously’.