- Some say the scheme announced in latest budget address fails to cover those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder and who are not yet permanent residents
- Protests and virus outbreak have added to rental woes of the less fortunate
For more than half a year, Miao Guiying, 39, who has a 10-year-old daughter, has struggled to make ends meet. But she will be four months short of qualifying for the HK$10,000 government handout announced on Wednesday.
Miao moved to Hong Kong from Jiangxi province in mainland China, and will become a permanent resident in the city by July 2021. But only Hongkongers above 18 years of age and permanent residents by March 31 next year would be eligible for the money.
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"I am so angry. I think the criteria is really unfair, and those of us who really have no money are not getting any. I'm just a few months away from becoming a permanent resident," she said.
"My daughter is a permanent resident, but she's too young to qualify."
The divorcee, who lives in Sham Shui Po, makes about HK$3,000 a month working four days a week as a cleaner at a McDonald's restaurant after her employer cut her five-day work schedule.
"I am worried they will cut more of my working hours. The economy has been bad since the protests and now there's the virus outbreak," she said, referring to the months-long civil unrest sparked last year by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.
I am so angry. I think the criteria is really unfairMiao Guiying, 39
Miao previously tried to apply for the Working Family Allowance Scheme, but did not qualify as she had not clocked enough hours after being sick for a month. She was also put under home quarantine for 14 days after visiting the mainland for the Lunar New Year holiday.
For now, she pays the HK$5,000 rent and utilities for her subdivided flat with alimony from her ex-husband.
"I really hope that my public housing application is approved. This would really lift my burden, and I can send my daughter for extracurricular classes," Miao said.
Rental woes also plague 49-year-old Lo Lu-hung, who stopped working last year due to liver damage. Her 55-year-old husband is a taxi driver but on a shortened night shift due to breathing problems.
"I pay HK$6,000 a month for my subdivided flat in Kwai Chung, even with the HK$10,000 handout, it will only tide us over for one, maybe two months," said Lo, a member of the Kwai Chung Subdivided Flat Residents Alliance.
The Covid-19 epidemic has made business tough for her husband as less people go out at night. Before the outbreak, he made HK$500 to HK$700 a night, she said. Now, after paying for fuel and vehicle rental, her husband is losing money.
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"I'm also losing sleep because I'm worried he may pick up someone with the virus and get sick," Lo said.
She had also spent more than HK$100,000 on treatment for her liver problems in Guangzhou last year.
The couple do not qualify for any other benefits, and Lo recalled the last time she got any financial help was when the government subsidised people living in subdivided flats about two years ago.
"The benefits this time are mostly for people in public housing, the rest of us don't get anything. It would really help if we can get some rental subsidy. The situation now is tough for everyone," Lo said.
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