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Japan to aid virus-hit firms with $4.6 bil from reserve funds

People walk through a shopping street along the famed Sensoji temple in the Asakusa neighborhood in Tokyo on April 29, 2021. Most stores were temporarily closed due to the coronavirus state of emergency measures. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's Cabinet decided Friday to use 500 billion yen ($4.6 billion) in fiscal 2021 reserve funds to aid businesses affected by the government's third state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.

    The financial assistance will be delivered to prefectures so that they can provide subsidies for small and midsize firms and tourism operators to help them keep their businesses running. Local governments will also use the money to monitor the implementation of tighter steps to curb the spread of the virus.

    The government has earmarked 5 trillion yen in reserve funds to counter the pandemic under the initial fiscal 2021 budget worth 106.61 trillion yen. The 500 billion yen outlay will mark the first use of the funds in the fiscal year that started in April.

    Amid a fourth wave of coronavirus infections, Tokyo and the western Japan prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo have been under the country's third virus emergency, effective through May 11. The emergency covers the Golden Week holiday period that began Thursday.

    Anti-virus measures under the fresh emergency include requests for large commercial facilities, theme parks and movie theaters to close and a ban on serving alcohol at eating and drinking establishments.

    Apart from the upcoming financial aid, the state has been offering up to 100,000 yen per day to small and midsize operators of restaurants and bars, and a maximum 200,000 yen to large operators that comply with authorities' requests to cut operating hours or shut under the emergency as well as a quasi-emergency in effect in some other areas of the country.

    At present, seven other prefectures are under a quasi-state of emergency with less strict anti-virus measures than those under the emergency implemented in targeted areas.

    In fiscal 2020 through March, the government allocated a total of 11.5 trillion yen in virus reserve funds under two extra budgets and used up almost all of it, leaving just 508 billion yen.

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