Cabinet OKs ?1.13 tril in reserve funds to cushion impact of virus

The cabinet on Friday earmarked 1.13 trillion yen in reserve funds to continue measures to cushion the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Japan.
Of the total, 915 billion yen will be allocated to a cash benefit program of up to 2 million yen each to small and midsize firms that have seen a sharp drop in sales due to social restrictions implemented to slow the virus' spread.
"The cabinet decided to use the reserve fund to ensure that the government can smoothly implement some countermeasures that are expected to run short of necessary funding," Finance Minister Taro Aso told a press conference after the cabinet decision.
For households whose income has fallen sharply, the government will allocate 177.7 billion yen for a no-interest loan program providing up to 200,000 yen each.
To beef up quarantine steps such as conducting polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests for visitors from foreign countries, the government will set aside 33 billion yen.
The government has dedicated a total of 11.5 trillion yen in reserve funds to be used in the fight against the pandemic.
The funds were part of the first and second supplementary budgets for fiscal 2020 ending March next year.
Opposition parties have demanded Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government explain in detail their plans for the funds, given the scale of the outlay.
Parliament ended its ordinary session in June, and the opposition camp has been calling for an extraordinary session to be convened.
Abe's Liberal Democratic Party has been reluctant to convene such a session anytime soon. The government briefed executive members of the Budget Committee of both houses of the Diet on the reserve fund use in closed-door sessions Friday.
Abe declared a state of emergency on April 7 for Tokyo and six other areas and later expanded it to the whole nation. The government requested people stay at home and that nonessential businesses suspend operations, dealing a blow to the economy.
The state of emergency was fully lifted on May 25 and many areas in the country have since seen a resurgence in infection rates.

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