Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung has dismissed the possibility of offering new unemployment benefits to people who've lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the jobless have the option to look for work in new areas instead.
Cheung made the comments during a Legco Finance Committee meeting on Friday where lawmakers were vetting a government application for a HK$5.4 billion injection into its anti-epidemic fund.
During the meeting, lawmakers slammed the government for not enough to help people and businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, saying the HK$24 billion pledged in a third round of measures is not enough to help Hong Kong people.
Democratic Party lawmakers called for another round of universal cash handouts, while those representing the business sector said more subsidies should be allocated to firms that had been ordered to close during the peak of the recent outbreak.
But both sides were united in their calls for an unemployment subsidy for those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.
But the Chief Secretary rejected this. "For those who are unemployed, those who have lost their jobs, for example, they have an option, because of the restructuring of the economy they may need to switch to another field," he said.
He also said they could apply for social welfare, and should already be getting severance and long-service payments when they were made redundant.
Cheung also brushed aside suggestions of another round of universal cash handout, saying that is not the way to go given the government's dwindling fiscal reserves.
When asked whether the government will roll out a fourth round of anti-epidemic funding, Cheung said it all depends on the government's financial health, and that the government needed "more ammunition" to cope with a possible fourth wave of infections in the winter.