Govt approves Covid handouts
Raft of measures to ease people's plight
published : 13 Jan 2021 at 04:00
newspaper section: News
writer: Chatrudee Theparat, Wichit Chantanusornsiri and Mongkol Bangprapa
The government on Tuesday agreed to two cash handouts to those most in need in the wake of the latest Covid-19 outbreak.
The two monthly payments of 3,500 baht are among a raft of measures designed to ease people's plight, the others being reduced electricity and water bills, and soft loans to businesses.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the weekly cabinet meeting had approved the new measures to reduce people's cost-of-living expenses and put more cash in their pockets.
The Finance Ministry must still work out the details of the cash handout and its proposal will be discussed by the cabinet next Tuesday.
Casual workers, freelancers and farmers who are not covered by the social security system will be eligible for the new relief measures.
A government source said about 30 million people were expected to receive the handouts and a budget of 210 billion baht had been set aside.
Electricity and household water bills will be reduced for February and March -- each household with electricity consumption up to 150 units a month will get the first 90 units for free and there will also be discounts for those using more than 150 units a month.
Water charges for households and small businesses will be cut by 10% for February and March, excluding state agencies and state enterprises. A budget of about nine billion baht would be required to subsidise those reductions, Gen Prayut said.
The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission will also be asking internet service providers to consider reducing household bills, boost internet speeds to support those working from home, and provide free downloads of the Mor Chana position-tracking app for three months.
The government will also expand the co-payment subsidy scheme for another one million people. Registration is expected to open next Wednesday and eligible people can participate from Jan 25.
The co-payment scheme allows registered individuals who buy goods from smaller local shops to pay only half the price of their purchases (of listed essential goods), with the government subsidising the other half.
The 90% reduction in land and building taxes and the reduced 0.01% fee for property transfers and mortgages is also being extended.
Soft loans will boost cash flow for eligible people and businesses at a cost to the government of 200 billion baht.
The Government Savings Bank had agreed to lend 10,000-50,000 baht to each debtor, at interest rates of just 0.1-0.35% a month, the PM said.
Gen Prayut insisted that the government had enough money to support the new Covid-related financial measures.
About 470 billion baht remained from the Finance Ministry's one-trillion-baht budget to cope with the impact of Covid-19, and about 130 billion baht from the government's contingency fund could also be used for this purpose, said Gen Prayut.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Ministry will work with the Interior Ministry and Industry Ministry to ensure enough personal protective equipment, face masks and hand sanitisers are always provided at high-risk areas, says the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC).
Measures will also be in place to support business operators to use their factories as quarantine facilities for workers, particularly in the five maximum control provinces of Samut Sakhon, Chon Buri, Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat, said NESDC secretary-general Danucha Pichayanan.
Thai tourists who have made hotel bookings for this month and next month under the Rao Tiew Duay Kan (We Travel Together) co-payment scheme will also be allowed to postpone their reservations until April.
The cabinet also approved an exemption of personal income tax for 2020 for those who received financial assistance from relief packages.
They include the co-payment scheme, We Travel Together programme, the Moral Support campaign which allowed 1.2 million health volunteers and officials of sub-district hospitals to travel with a 2,000-baht budget per tourist, and the measure to pay compensation to workers left unemployed due to Covid-19.
The cabinet last month approved reduced Social Security Fund contributions by employers and employees from 5% to 3% from January to March.