More lower-income households will soon be eligible for government subsidies after the Legislative Yuan yesterday passed amendments that change how Taiwan’s official poverty line will be defined and who can get access to public assistance.
The amendments to the Social Assistance Act (社會救助法), scheduled to take effect on July 1 should add 588,000 people to the number of households eligible for public aid, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hou Tsai-feng (侯彩鳳) said.
The bulk of those newly eligible to receive aid will be near-poor households with an average income per household member no more than 1.5 times as high as the poverty line.
Before yesterday’s amendments, that group was previously ineligible for financial aid.
Other people will also receive assistance by falling under the higher poverty line, or “minimum cost of living.”
At present, the minimum cost of living is defined as 60 percent of average per capita consumption expenditures, but the new revisions change that to 60 percent of median disposable income per capita.
The minimum cost of living, which will vary from region to region, will be set at NT$14,794 (US$493) in Taipei City, NT$11,146 in Greater Kaohsiung, NT$11,832 in Sinbei City (the new name for Taipei County after its upgrade to a special municipality on Dec. 25), NT$10,303 in Greater Taichung, NT$10,244 in Greater Tainan and NT$10,244 in other cities and counties around the country.
Households with levels of average income per household member lower than the minimum cost of living can apply for public subsidies.
The new formula raises the poverty line by roughly 5 percent to 10 percent, although the minimum cost of living in Taipei City remained unchanged because of a provision that caps any region’s minimum cost of living at 70 percent of the country’s median disposable income per capita.
Meanwhile, according to Hou, members of low-income households who are 65 or over, at least three-months pregnant, or physically or mentally challenged, are entitled to receive an additional three-months worth of subsidies per year.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Chiech-ju (陳節如) welcomed the passage of the amendments because households that would be recognized as poor or near poor in other countries were finally being recognized as such in Taiwan.
Chen said that under the existing regulations, less than 1 percent of Taiwan’s population was eligible for government subsidies, much lower than those in neighboring countries and areas such as South Korea and Hong Kong.