The government has turned down calls by welfare groups for extra short-term grants to help pay for meal services amid rising food prices. It says the non-government agencies can meet the costs from their share of a HK$200 million one-off grant to be distributed later this year. This drew fire from a legislator who said the grant was supposed to help cash-strapped welfare groups increase staff salaries. Calling for the short-term subsidies, Council of Social Service chief officer for elderly services Grace Chan Man-yee said many welfare groups were being plagued by high inflation. The recent 1.4 per cent increase in government lump-sum subsidies for NGOs' spending on food, transport, programme expenses and maintenance no enough. 'It cannot catch up with inflation at all,' she said at a meeting of Legco's welfare services panel. 'Food prices [excluding dine-out meals] surged by 17.2 per cent year-on-year in March while electricity, gas and water also went up by 7.1 per cent,' she said. Social Welfare Organisations Employees Union vice-chairman Liu Wai-ying agreed, saying: 'The government should give temporary extra funding to NGOs and closely monitor them.' Director of Social Welfare Stephen Fisher said the department would make a one-off HK$200 million grant to 164 NGOs funded by lump-sum grants later this month, and welfare groups could use the money to cover inflated food prices. He said each NGO would have about a 3 per cent increase in funding this year under this measure, which should cover rising costs.