SEOUL, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) — Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Tuesday instructed the finance minister to carefully devise measures to compensate small businesses for their losses incurred by the country’s strict social distancing measures against COVID-19.
In a meeting held with Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki and Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae, Chung told Hong to “carefully prepare for the measures by studying the opinions of on-site (merchants) experiencing difficulties.”
Chung also directed Hong to “review (the compensation measures) through sufficient consultation with related ministries within the scope of which state finance can tolerate.”
The prime minister also stressed the importance of the Cabinet maintaining solid team chemistry in order to “produce administrative results” that are palpable to the public.
The ruling Democratic Party has been pushing for legislation on compensating the self-employed and owners of small businesses forced to reduce business hours or shut down under tough social distancing measures amid growing complaints from them. The finance ministry initially responded negatively toward the move, citing budget constraints.
On Monday, however, President Moon Jae-in instructed the government and the ruling party to explore “institutional” ways to compensate them.
Hong explained that the finance ministry has recognized the need to institutionalize compensation measures and had been reviewing it before the president delivered the instruction.
“We will move forward with the measures by discussing the specifics thoroughly with the ruling party,” Hong added.’
The government has issued several rounds of emergency handouts to help them cushion the fallout of the pandemic, but those are widely seen as insufficient to cover fixed costs, such as rent and wages for employees.
The ruling party has also proposed other bills on providing financial support in earnest to those coronavirus-hit small businesses in addition to sporadic emergency cash handouts.