A HK$10,000 (US$1,300) handout for Hongkongers who recently moved to the city will benefit about 200,000 low-income residents, though not foreign domestic workers or those admitted through special talent schemes, according to the latest government proposal.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po last month announced a HK$10,000 handout for permanent residents, a move designed to ease economic hardship during the Covid-19 epidemic. The scheme was later extended to cover new arrivals after backlash from the community.
The Community Care Fund, a government trust fund designed to plug gaps in the social security safety net, has been tasked with administering the policy, the details of which were approved in a meeting on Friday afternoon, the Post was told.
To “better target resources to those in need”, applicants must be 18 years old or above by March 31, 2021, part of a low-income household, and have lived in Hong Kong for fewer than seven years, an insider with knowledge of the plan said.
People who arrived on one-way permits from the mainland and dependants of permanent residents will also be among those eligible for the subsidy.
However, foreign domestic workers, those in the city on working holidays, and people admitted under various special talents schemes operated by the government, such as the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme, Technology Talent Admission Scheme and the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals, will be excluded.
The income threshold, meanwhile, is expected to be modelled on another Community Care Fund scheme, the benefit payment to so-called “N-nothing” households, a low-income group who earn slightly too much to qualify for public housing and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance.
The monthly income cap for an applicant in a one-person household is set to be HK$14,325, while the ceiling will range from HK$21,750 to HK$38,810 for two to six person households.
But Wong Chi-yuen, a campaign officer at the Society for Community Organisation, said the newly expanded handout should not be means-tested for newcomers.
“The handout is available to all permanent residents without means testing. The same arrangement should apply to new immigrants without discriminatory treatment,” he said.
He argued that doing away with the requirement would actually save public money as administrative costs would be reduced, while also allowing cash to be dispersed more rapidly to those in need during the current economic downturn.
According to Immigration Department figures, about 307,000 people have taken up residence in Hong Kong from mainland China since 2013.
The source said the government expected the scheme to benefit about 200,000 people and cost around HK$2.13 billion, some HK$100 million of which will go towards administrative expenses. The scheme will be open for applications by September at the earliest.