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Charity group to pay benefits to 1,980 school children from poor families

A charitable foundation that supports children from poor families has started accepting applications for a benefit-payment scheme designed to ease the burden of education costs.

    The Tokyo-based foundation, known as USNOVA, will provide the benefit money to children such as those from low-income families, who are planning to enter elementary school or junior high school in spring 2017. In total, funds are available for 1,980 successful applicants, regardless of the child's academic results to date, and the benefit money does not need to be returned.

    USNOVA's scheme precedes a similar benefit-style scholarship system that the government plans to introduce in fiscal 2017. Under the USNOVA model, successful applicants will be paid between 30,000 yen and 60,000 yen, and the number of children eligible to receive this financial support has increased to approximately 2,000 -- which is about 10 times more than in the previous period.

    With the standard costs of entering elementary school and junior high school being more than 60,000 yen and 80,000 yen respectively, the financial burden of entering school is particularly heavy on single-mother families.

    In a questionnaire that was conducted by USNOVA in fiscal 2015, the 198 families that received the benefit payment replied with positive comments such as, "Thanks to the benefit money, I was able to buy a new school uniform," as well as, "The financial support meant I didn't have to quit my school club activities."

    USNOVA head Koji Ogawa states, "There are many families living below the breadline in Japan, and poverty is spreading to a degree that is difficult to represent in figures."

    The payments will be entirely funded through sources such as street donations, and the relatively large amount of money collected on this occasion means that the number of eligible children has expanded to 1,980. Money will also be set aside for children who have been affected by the Kumamoto earthquake.

    Students who are eligible to apply are children from welfare facilities, as well as children from families that are receiving welfare benefits or exempt from paying resident tax, who will enter elementary school or junior high school or who are expecting to graduate from junior high school or high school. Applications should be sent to USNOVA by either post or e-mail by Jan. 23, and payments will be made during fiscal 2016, following a screening process.

    For further information, contact USNOVA on 03-6277-8199 or info@usnova.org.

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