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Central Japan mayor says 100,000-yen handout with coupons 'absurd,' city will pay cash only

Fujiyoshida Mayor Shigeru Horiuchi reveals the city's plan for 100,000-yen cash handouts for individuals aged 18 or under in a press conference at the Fujiyoshida Municipal Government building in Yamanashi Prefecture on Dec. 8, 2021. (Mainichi/Satoru Yamamoto)

FUJIYOSHIDA, Yamanashi -- This city in the central Japan prefecture of Yamanashi will hand out 100,000 yen (about $880) in cash to people aged 18 and younger, instead of the central government's request that the money be distributed as cash and coupons, its mayor announced Dec. 8.

    The government's policy of distributing 50,000 yen (about $440) in cash and 50,000 yen in coupons as a general rule -- as part of its coronavirus economic stimulus measures -- was branded "totally absurd" by Fujiyoshida Mayor Shigeru Horiuchi, who cited complications that would arise from administering coupon handouts.

    Mayor Horiuchi said at a Dec. 8 regular press conference, "Cash handouts are preferable with the important assumption that payments are swift and immediately useful." On coupon distribution, he raised concerns regarding their administration, including printing, delivery, setting up call centers and choosing establishments where coupons can be used, and said, "It would mean the central government has to shoulder extra expenses, and the work would also become extremely complicated for local governments."

    The mayor said the city will finish distributing 50,000-yen cash handouts by the end of the year, and complete conveyance of the remaining half by the end of March 2022, in line with the national government's planned coupon distribution period. The municipal government says 6,830 residents aged 18 or younger are eligible for the payments.

    After the press conference, a senior city official said, "Coupon distribution takes considerable time, and it's possible that distribution can't be completed within the fiscal year. If it were cash, we could get it out by the fiscal year's end."

    The official also expressed anger toward the national government's stance, saying, "Whether it's vaccines or handouts, its instructions are vague. They don't think about the local governments' struggles or people on the ground." They added, "Local governments become responsible for deciding between solely cash distributions or cash-and-coupon handouts."

    They also demanded that the government give instructions to local governments by deciding on an across-the-board, nationwide policy, stating: "I think the government's way of handling this is unfair."

    (Japanese original by Satoru Yamamoto, Kofu Bureau)

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