The central government announced yesterday that it would issue more than 9 billion yuan (HK$10.2 billion) in special subsidies to the mainland's needy in the lead-up to the Lunar New Year as the global financial crisis further erodes living standards. Civil Affairs Vice-Minister Jiang Li said in a nationwide teleconference that 74 million people living below the poverty line would get the money before the holiday, which starts on January 26. 'We have to act quickly and effectively ... to make sure people get the subsidies before the Lunar New Year,' Mr Jiang said. Impoverished urban dwellers will receive 150 yuan each, while rural residents will get 100 yuan because their living costs are much lower. Those who either joined the Communist Party before 1949 or made a special contribution to the country but are still living in poverty will receive 180 yuan each. The details followed a statement from the ministry in mid-December that announced the subsidy plan but did not mention the amounts. The central government has gradually increased subsidies to rural and urban residents as inflation pushed up commodity prices in the first six months and the global financial crisis bit into the latter half, adding financial pressures on the poorest. Many economists have suggested that the government issue cash subsidies to the public as a way of spurring the sluggish domestic consumption to compensate for a slump in the mainland's exports. This policy appears to focus more on helping the needy. The government seems to see the subsidies as a way to ease anger during the tough economic times. 'We have to see this task from [the point of view of] the importance of maintaining social stability and achieving the goal of social harmony,' Mr Jiang said. People living in poverty, with an annual income below 1,067 yuan, or a little higher in cities, can receive year-end subsidies from more than just the central government. Provincial and city governments started subsidising needy families last month. Jiangsu province announced last month that residents living in poverty would each receive a 100 yuan subsidy and low-cost medical care. Chengdu , Sichuan , issued a 100 yuan shopping coupon to each needy person and about 150,000 training coupons worth 500 yuan each to those wanting to upgrade their skills.