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Japan begins distributing cash handouts for virus relief

Some small municipalities in Japan began distributing on Thursday one-off cash handouts to people to help cushion them from the economic fallout related to the new coronavirus' spread.

But the handouts of 100,000 yen ($938) per person may begin later in big cities because of the amount of paperwork, including processing the applications.

In the town of Higashikawa, Hokkaido, financial institutions first give residents the cash and the town office will later pay the amount back using funds from the state.

Those who have accounts at the bank affiliated with a local agriculture cooperative or a credit union are eligible to receive the 100,000 yen in the town, which has a population of about 8,000.

"We hope (the financial institutions) will make sure all citizens receive the handout," said an official of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

In the village of Nishimeya, Aomori Prefecture, officials began handing out the cash to elderly residents in person.

Meanwhile, the city of Sapporo plans to open registrations for eligible recipients in 970,000 households from May, although the start could be postponed to June.

"Upgrading the system to create the registration forms and sending them out will take time," an official of the Hokkaido capital said.

Otsu, the capital of the western Japan prefecture of Shiga, will begin accepting registrations from June 1 and is planning on distributing handouts from mid-June.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures earlier this month. He then expanded it to the entire nation on April 16, while pledging to launch the cash handout scheme for all residents regardless of income.

His administration's earlier plan to give 300,000 yen each to households whose income has fallen met with sharp criticism.