Covid-19: Penang announces RM75m in aid for vulnerable groups

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks during a press conference in George Town March 4, 2020. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks during a press conference in George Town March 4, 2020. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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GEORGE TOWN, March 25 — Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow today announced a RM75 million aid package for hawkers, traders, taxi drivers, trishaw riders, the disabled and B40 groups.

The Penang lawmaker said the state had initially announced a RM20 million aid package but due to the impact of the movement control order (MCO) following the Covid-19 outbreak, the state government has decided to increase it.

“After taking into account the impact on the most vulnerable groups in these eight days and the needs of these groups, we have decided to approve additional aid to bring the total aid package to be given out to RM75 million,” he said in his daily message on Facebook today.

He said the aid package will benefit around 410,000 people in the most vulnerable groups.

“The objectives of the aid package is to help these groups and to ensure business continuity for the state after the MCO,” he said.

There are 16 items in the state’s aid package that included one-off cash payouts and rental exemptions.

Chow said Penang is known as a street food destination but due to the MCO and Covid-19, the state’s tourism sector has taken a beating and is badly affected.

“We have thousands of hawkers who have been one of the major contributors of the tourism industry in the state and they are badly affected during this period so to ease their burden, we are giving out one-off payment of RM500 to all licensed hawkers and traders in the state,” he said.

This payment will benefit 14,012 hawkers and traders including those who sell at night markets, farmers market and food trucks which involves a total cost of RM7 million.

Registration for the one-off payment for hawkers and traders will start on April 15.

Chow also announced a one-off payment of RM500 for all registered tour guides which is another group that is severely affected during this period.

This payment will benefit 1,367 tour guides in the state and cost the state RM685,000.

There will also be a one-off payment of RM500 to those who are registered aid recipients under the welfare department.

“Recipients will include the disabled and recipients of the Agenda Ekonomi Saksama and payment will be made directly into their accounts in April,” he said.

Taxi drivers and trishaw riders will each receive their annual RM300 incentive earlier this year, in April, and they will also get a one-off additional payout of RM200 this year.

E-hailing drivers are not left out as Chow also announced a RM300 one-off payment each to about 10,000 drivers in Penang.

The state government will also exempt two months’ rental in April and May for all Rumah Sewa Kerajaan Negeri and Project Perumahan Rakyat tenants.

The state government and city councils have also exempted the April rental for a total 10,999 business premises in the state.

“All Village Community Management Council has been ordered not to collect rental for all night markets and wet markets for the month of April,” Chow said.

He said the Zakat Pulau Pinang has allocated RM3 million for the less fortunate Muslims while the Penang Islamic Affairs Department will be giving a RM1,000 one-off payment to all mosques and RM500 one-off payment to all surau to facilitate maintenance, cleaning and disinfection works in these premises.

“We understand and sympathised with the difficulties faced by the Covid-19 patients so we will be giving a RM500 one-off payment to those positive for Covid-19 and RM1,000 to the families of Covid-19 patients who succumbed to the disease,” he said.

Chow also announced special one-off incentives of RM300 for all frontline workers in the city councils, government agencies and departments including the enforcement teams, police, armed forces, civil defence and Real.

The Penang state government has allocated RM10 million to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks, hand sanitisers and infra-red thermometers.

The state is also launching an interest-free loan scheme — Penang Business Continuity Zero Interest Loan — to help businesses to tide over this period and continue with their businesses.

He said the loan is available to entrepreneurs who can apply for loans up to RM5,000 and small-medium industries that can apply for loans up to RM10,000 each.

Applicants will be given six months before they start repayment of the interest-free loan.

All assemblymen in the state, including those in the Opposition, will be receiving a special allocation to assist their constituents.

“Each assemblyman is given RM30,000 as emergency funds to help their constituents and this fund will be distributed to all 40 assemblymen in the state,” he said.

Finally, the final date for payment of quit rent has been extended from May 31 to August 30 and payment for the government’s rent-to-own schemes, Skim Pinjaman Harapan, Tabung Usahawan Tani and Pinjaman Penuntut were given a three-month moratorium.

“I hope the private sector will also play its role to introduce incentives to spur the economy and premise owners will reduce their rental rates during this period to help everyone weather through this time,” he said.

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