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$1.83M in COVID business subsidies returned to Osaka Pref. after firms disobeyed rules

The Osaka Prefectural Government headquarters (Mainichi/Yumi Shibamura)

OSAKA -- Some 240 million yen (roughly $1.83 million) paid to businesses in Osaka Prefecture complying with the prefectural government's request to shorten operating hours as a COVID-19 prevention measure has been returned after it was discovered that not all subsidy recipients were following the rules.

    The Osaka Prefectural Government had asked restaurants and bars to close their shops earlier than usual between January and October 2021 as part of the prefecture's infection prevention measures. The prefectural government's commerce, industry and labor department head Hiroyuki Kobayashi told a May 31 prefectural assembly meeting that there were 146 cases in which businesses receiving cooperation subsidies had not been complying with the business restriction requests, in response to a question raised by Liberal Democratic Party assemblyman Norifumi Shiokawa. The discovery of non-compliant subsidy recipients apparently was a result of tipoffs by local residents.

    According to the prefectural government's cooperation subsidy promotion office, there were some restaurants that have voluntarily returned the money after learning that they were also being paid from separate subsidy systems set up respectively by the central and prefectural governments.

    There were also numerous other restaurants that were called into question over whether they actually followed the business hour request according to residents' tips, and the amount being returned to the prefecture could reach billions of yen.

    Assemblyman Shiokawa asked the prefectural government to handle the non-compliant cases firmly and work toward having such businesses return the subsidy payments, emphasizing that the cooperation subsidies came from taxpayers' money.

    (Japanese original by Masaki Ishikawa, Osaka City News Department)

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