On July 16, AmCham held a webinar with National Development Council (NDC) Minister Kung Ming-Hsin, who spoke to members about the government’s most recent COVID-19 relief program.
Daniel Tseng, Secretary of AmCham’s Board of Governors and President of Corning Display Technologies Taiwan, moderated the event. He introduced Minister Kung and thanked the NDC for its collaboration with AmCham Taiwan and support for the Chamber’s annual Taiwan White Paper.
Kung began his presentation by summarizing the current COVID-19 situation in Taiwan. In May, an outbreak of local infections resulted in a peak of between 500 and 600 new cases daily, Kung said, adding that Taiwan quickly contained the spread by introducing Level 3 restrictions. While Taiwan continues to record double-digit local COVID-19 cases each day, vaccines are becoming more available and Taiwan’s vaccination rate is increasing.
In contrast with last year’s initial outbreak, the economic effects of this new phase are concentrated on local businesses. Under the Level 3 restrictions, leisure, exhibition, and education-related activities have all been suspended. Other industries, such as food and beverage, tourism, and transportation also face heavy restrictions.
In terms of economic relief for businesses, Kung noted that Taiwan allocated comparatively few funds during the initial phases of the pandemic because Taiwan’s early response, largely informed by their experience with SARS, was highly effective. Given this, special reserves were available to implement broader relief measures.
The government’s approach to relief-funding is to concentrate financial aid on industries experiencing the most stress. Instead of providing blanket cash subsidies, the government has reserved financial resources for impacted industries and individuals, including unemployed workers and the service and tourism industries. Foreigners and part-time and contract workers are also eligible for aid. Additionally, the government introduced a NT$10,000-per-child family assistance program and helped certain households with expenses related to rent and utilities.
Concluding the presentation, Minister Kung noted the goal of the government’s COVID policies is to prioritize prevention, relief, and revitalization.
During the Q&A session held afterwards, a concern was raised about the difficulty some foreigners experienced with registering for vaccination appointments through the online platform. Registration on the platform is based on the number on an individual’s National Health Insurance (NHI) card, which not all foreigners possess. Kung responded that he would raise the issue with the relevant agency in order to determine an alternative method for foreigners without an NHI card to register.
Responding to a question about relief for foreign businesses, Kung noted that small and medium-sized companies qualify for financial assistance, regardless of the owner’s nationality. Business owners and individuals can dial the 1988 economic relief and stimulus hotline for assistance. Kung also hosts a weekly office hour to assist companies with applying for pandemic relief.