Seoul city offers more relief to its small businesses

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Seoul city offers more relief to its small businesses

Nearly 410,000 small business owners and self-employed workers in Seoul who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic will receive 1.4 million won ($1,140) in cash handouts as part of the city government’s latest effort to resuscitate the local economy.

Seoul plans to inject 574 billion won into the project, mainly by readjusting the city’s total budget for 2020, the Seoul Metropolitan Government said in a press release Thursday.

Seoul relayed the criteria for signing up for the cash relief and said about 72 percent of the city’s 570,000 small business owners and self-employed workers are expected to qualify.

A number of industry categories were entirely excluded, including businesses that are grouped in what’s called the “entertainment industry” in Korea, such as clubs and hostess and karaoke bars.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said Thursday in an online press briefing from Seoul City Hall that the so-called survival fund will be offered separately from other Covid-19 emergency handouts previously introduced by the city and central governments, and that those who meet all the criteria for the latest relief package can still apply even if they’ve received the previous subsidies.

Park also called on the central government to take similar measures by offering more help to small business owners, saying authorities and the National Assembly should thoroughly discuss the matter so that “the entirety of Korea can return to normal life.”

Seoul’s latest survival fund “is a payment to small business owners and low-income self-employed workers whose earnings plummeted due to the coronavirus outbreak, and it will be handed out in the form of cash so they can use it to pay off their fixed costs such as rent and labor,” Park explained.

“It will be an unprecedented support [package] for an unprecedented social disaster,” he stressed.

According to the guidelines, those who wish to sign up for the survival fund will have to have had run his or her business for at least six months by Feb. 29, and be running the business by the time they apply for the handout. Their total revenue last year must be under 200 million won and they need a business registration form approved by the Seoul city government proving they’re working in the capital.

Seoul said applications will be received online from mid-May, followed by offline registration from June.

In the press release, Seoul cited a policy report from The Seoul Institute saying that eight out of 10 small business owners in the capital have seen their sales nosedive by 50 percent or more due to the coronavirus outbreak. In a survey published by the Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise, seven out of 10 small business owners in Korea said they were considering shutting down their business if the outbreak continues for six months or more, Seoul continued in the press release.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, KIM HYUN-YE [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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