A government plan to issue travel-based “stimulus coupons” to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak could benefit up to 350,000 local businesses, Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) said yesterday.
Shen introduced the scheme at the Legislative Yuan as part of a NT$2 billion (US$66.6 million) stimulus plan from the Executive Yuan’s NT$60 billion special budget bill.
The Cabinet on Thursday last week approved the bill to finance strategies to combat the spread of COVID-19, which has infected 42 people in Taiwan, with one death, and help local industrial and commercial sectors hit hardest by the outbreak.
Photo: Sam Yeh, AFP
In the initial stage, about NT$600 to NT$800 worth of stimulus coupons would be issued in both paper and electronic forms, Shen said.
More than 140,000 restaurants and diners, 280,000 businesses in shopping centers, 10,000 night market vendors, and 1,700 arts and culture venues are expected to accept the coupons, he said, citing data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
After adjusting for double counting, the coupons could be used at about 350,000 businesses once they are issued, Shen said.
Under the ministry’s plan, the coupons would be tied to domestic travel, and issued in four categories: food and drink, night markets, shopping centers, and arts and culture.
However, it has not decided how to distribute the coupons, whether they should only be given to Taiwanese or also to foreign travelers, or how they would be used, it said.
Asked if the coupons would be issued prior to the Tomb Sweeping Day holiday from April 2 to April 5 to boost consumption during the spring break, as some people have suggested, Shen said that it was unlikely.
He said that the coupons would likely be issued between six and 12 months after the spread of COVID-19 slows down, to help hard-hit small and medium-sized businesses.
“With the outbreak still continuing, we should concentrate on outbreak prevention and control,” Shen said.
The ministry also plans to use more than NT$20.4 billion in the special budget bill to provide subsidies and loans to businesses most affected by the outbreak and to boost domestic demand, which is flagging due to the drop in the number of foreign visitors.
The budget would also be used to build new mask production lines, buy masks from local manufacturers and help export them overseas when that becomes possible.
The Legislative Yuan is reviewing the special budget.
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