A record 96,000 households in Japan have received rent support from the government due to falling incomes amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, welfare ministry data showed Thursday.

About 109,000 applications for rent support were submitted between April and August, of which around 96,000, or 88 percent, were approved, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The number of approvals in the five months was already 2.6 times the fiscal 2010 total of 37,151, in the wake of the global financial crisis triggered by the 2008 collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

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The program originally targeted displaced workers, but the government relaxed conditions in April to cover people whose incomes had fallen due to lost working hours amid the pandemic.

To qualify for rent support, an applicant must have lost a job within the previous two years or incurred a decline in income for unavoidable reasons, have lower income and savings than benchmarks, and be seeking employment.

The income and savings benchmarks vary by region and number of household members. A single-member household in central Tokyo would qualify if monthly income is no higher than 138,000 yen ($1,310) and savings are not in excess of 504,000 yen.

Up to 53,700 yen per month can be provided to a single-member household in central Tokyo for three months, with a possible extension to nine months.

Monthly breakdowns show 44,811 applications were filed in May and the government decided in June to provide benefits to a record 34,869 households, apparently due to business closures following the imposition of a state of emergency over the pandemic between April and May.

The number of applications fell to 14,023 in July and 9,379 in August but remained at high levels.

Since households can receive rent support for up to nine months, those who began to receive such aid in the spring will run out of support in the winter, possibly leading to increased homelessness in cold weather, a support group said, calling on the government to extend the period of provision to at least one year.

The government has also been urged to ease the benchmarks and other conditions so that more people can qualify for rent support.