Foreigners living in Seoul to get Covid-19 relief payment

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Foreigners living in Seoul to get Covid-19 relief payment

Foreigners living in Seoul will receive a one-time Covid-19 relief payment, a city official confirmed Wednesday.
 
During a plenary session Tuesday, the Seoul Metropolitan Council passed a supplementary budget bill that included plans to allocate 33 billion won ($27.4 million) for a program to dole out emergency funds to foreigners, the official said.
 
But the city has been light on basic details, including the timing and payment amounts.
 
Seoul’s decision to provide Covid-19 emergency payments to foreigners came less than a month after Korea’s human rights watchdog, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, issued a policy recommendation to the metropolitan government of Seoul and the provincial government of Gyeonggi not to discriminate against foreigners when providing Covid-19 relief.
  
Excluding foreigners from the financial benefits is “a violation of their right to equality,” the watchdog said.
  
Gyeonggi has yet to announce plans to follow through on the warning.
 
Multiple local media outlets reported Tuesday that Seoul's program will provide emergency funds to foreigners who live and work in the capital. A Seoul government official confirmed the existence of the relief program when contacted Wednesday by the Korea JoongAng Daily via telephone, but declined to offer further details.
 
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the city has yet to decide on any further matters, including who the beneficiaries will be.
 
Everything’s still “fluid,” the official said, adding that the Seoul government was planning to design the package “from square one,” given the array of different visa circumstances of foreigners living in Seoul.
 
The goal for now is to set a “clear” and “reasonable standard” as to who will receive the payments and how much, which will take some time to figure out, he said, because Seoul has to discuss this issue with other government agencies.
 
Seoul was one of the first local government offices in Korea to announce that it would allocate cash payments to its residents after the country’s coronavirus cases began to soar in mid-February. Less than a month later, the city said it would offer emergency handouts to Seoul citizens who make less than the median income — below 1.75 million won before tax in a single-member household or 4.7 million won in a four-member household.
 
A household comprising one or two members received 300,000 won. Households with three or four members received 400,000 won, and those with five members or more received 500,000 won.
 
But foreigners were excluded from the payments — unless they were married to a Korean national, or were the parent of a child with Korean nationality and live with that child after separating from their Korean spouse due to a divorce or bereavement.
 
BY LEE SUNG-EUN   [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr] 

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