Japan to give 100,000 yen to all citizens for coronavirus relief

Japan plans to pay a one-off cash handout of 100,000 yen (about $930 U.S.) to all citizens regardless of income levels as part of measures to help them cushion the fallout from the spread of the new coronavirus, officials said Thursday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he will scrap the government's earlier plan to provide 300,000 yen to households whose income is deemed to have fallen sharply due to the epidemic, during a phone conversation with Natsuo Yamaguchi, chief of Komeito, the coalition partner of the Liberal Democratic Party, according to sources familiar with the matter.

In the conversation, Abe said he instead plans to include the blanket cash distribution plan to a supplementary budget, according to the sources.

The sudden policy change came after Abe acquiesced to Komeito, which broached the idea of the blanket cash handout and called for a rare review of an extra budget for fiscal 2020 that was already set to be submitted to parliament next Monday.

The government had crafted a record 108 trillion yen economic package that included the 300,000 yen handout program. For the package, the draft budget was approved by the Cabinet on April 7.

The rework of a budget that has already been endorsed by the Cabinet is not common in Japan.

Abe has instructed his officials to secure funding for the new scheme, although he earlier sounded negative about such a blanket plan.

Stay-at-home requests by local authorities and business suspensions are dealing an additional blow to the Japanese economy already hit by the 2 percent consumption tax hike last October, economists say.

A senior lawmaker of the major ruling party said the submission of a supplementary budget to the Diet is expected to come on April 27 and its enactment will likely be delayed to May 1, one week behind the government's original schedule.