More poor people to get transport subsidies with policy change
At least 100,000 more low-income workers are poised to receive subsidies for their transport costs following a change of mind by the government, a welfare group says.
Labour and Welfare Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung now says he will accept applications to the Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme based on the income and assets of individuals and households.
Cheung previously said that it would be hard to accept individual applications because workers could circumvent the means test by transferring their assets to family members.
He yesterday said that while there might be "a few cases of abuse", the change in policy would benefit a larger group of low-income workers.
Ho Hei-wah, a veteran campaigner for the poor, says at least 100,000 people who were previously excluded will get the subsidies of HK$300 to HK$600 a month.
"It's a bit late in coming, but it's better than nothing," said Ho, director of the Society for Community Organisation. "This will directly help the poorest of the poor in the city," he said.
Cheung says that more than 32,000 people have received the subsidies since the scheme started and another 5,000 applications are being processed.
The change in policy follows an early midterm review of the scheme, which was launched in October.
It will proceed if approved by the Legislative Council when it begins its new term.
Those who pass a means test based on income and assets get HK$300 a month if they work 36 to 72 hours. They get HK$600 if they work longer.
Cheung says many people were unable to lodge applications because they could not get the required information from their family members.
"We are striking a balance here," Cheung said, adding that the government would closely monitor the applications.
Ho says he is not worried that people would abuse the scheme.
He says he hopes the government will also look into setting up a living-expenses subsidy scheme for the lower-income families and individuals.