Welfare program to get overhaul

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Welfare program to get overhaul

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said yesterday it will overhaul the basic livelihood assistance program in a move to extend its coverage.

With the revision in place, the number of program beneficiaries is expected to increase by 800,000 to reach 2.2 million.

The revision centers on the eligibility requirements to receive basic living aid as an elderly parent.

The ministry explained the need for the change by saying many families with elderly parents in need of government benefits have been denied aid programs because of the reported income of their children.

Under the current system, struggling parents have been denied basic living benefits if those supporting them, mainly children, make more than 3.9 million won ($3,498) a month for a four-member family.

If a parent is under 65 years old, a monthly wage of 2.7 million won is the threshold for assistance eligibility.

But with a new standard scheduled to take effect in October next year, a parent will be eligible for benefits if a four-member household earns up to 4.4 million won a month.

There will also be a change in the current basic living assistance system which provides all or nothing aid programs depending on eligibility.

Under the current basic living programs, a package of seven aid programs such as medical aid, education, housing and living expense assistance programs have been provided all together to a person deemed eligible for government support.

But once a beneficiary generates more than the basic cost of living, he or she is stripped of all seven aid programs in the package under the current system.

The government defines the basic cost of living as 1.5 million won in monthly income for a four-member family.

With the announced change, a household will be qualified for each aid program depending on its financial condition.

For instance, households in the bottom 30 percent bracket of median income, or a 1.1 million won monthly income for a four-member family, will be eligible to receive living expenses such as transportation fees and food costs, while those in the 40 percent bracket, or a 1.5 million won monthly earning for a four-member family, will be entitled to medical aid.

“The basic living assistance program, which was introduced in 2000, now helps nearly 1.4 million people,” said prime minister Chung Hong-won during a welfare policy meeting yesterday.

“[But under the current system] the package of aid programs all come to a halt once a program beneficiary reaches a threshold income level, thus impeding one’s desire to generate income. The new change in the program system will shift the system foundation to induce work-capable men to join the workforce.”

The Welfare Ministry estimated with the announced revision, which the ministry said will take effect in October next year, the number of basic living assistance recipients will rise to 2.2 million from 1.4 million people recorded as of December last year.

The unveiling of a new basic support program is in line with the presidential election campaign pledge by the ruling Saenuri Party as well as the opposition Democratic Party, which all promised a wider embrace of the welfare policy.

By Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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