The following are questions and answers regarding the government's plan to give 100,000 yen ($930) to everyone in Japan.
Q: Why is the government doing this?
A: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the handout is meant to be a show of solidarity as the nation hunkers down for what could be a long fight against the novel coronavirus. It replaces an earlier plan to give 300,000 yen to households that suffer a big drop in income because of the outbreak. While the move was ostensibly tied to last week's declaration of a nationwide state of emergency, the ruling coalition and opposition parties had been pushing Abe to cast a wider net.
Q: Who is eligible?
A: Anyone who is on the basic resident register as of April 27. That covers about 127 million people, including foreign nationals who have legally resided in the country for more than three months. Homeless people are also eligible, but they will have to become registered with a city or town. Be aware, you do need to send in an application.
Q: How do I apply?
A: An application form will be mailed to everyone that is eligible, and you can also apply online through the government website for "My Number" card holders. In-person applications will be limited to special cases in order to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Whether the option to apply in English will be made available is still undecided, said an official at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The head of household will be responsible for applying for everyone in the family, and the cash will be wired to his or her bank account as early as May.
Q: Who is paying for this?
A: The Finance Ministry says handing out 100,000 yen per person will cost a total of nearly 13 trillion yen, more than triple the 4 trillion yen earmarked for the initial plan to give 300,000 yen to struggling households. The difference will be paid for entirely with new government bonds, adding to Japan's huge pile of debt.
Q: What do critics say?
A: Some have slammed the move as a not-so-cheap ploy to lift Abe's support ratings, while others argue that the new plan should not be a replacement for the original, but carried out in addition to it to help those most in need. The handout has also been unfavorably compared to a similar government initiative in 2009 that tried, and largely failed, to boost consumption in the wake of the global financial crisis.