Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung has said the government has tried to simplify the process for residents to receive a cash handout, but it must strike a balance between convenience and effectiveness of the scheme.
The government announced last year that around 2.8 million eligible Hongkongers are to receive HK$4,000 under a new programme. The scheme was officially launched on Monday.
Applicants have to complete a physical form, and provide documents to prove they are eligible.
Applicants are eligible for the full HK$4,000 if they do not own any property in Hong Kong, do not receive funds from the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme and do not pay tax. Some who received government concessions will receive a discounted amount.
Asked to respond to criticism that the application process was too complicated, Cheung said: “We have been trying to simplify the process.”
He told reporters on Tuesday that applicants will only need to hand in three document copies: proof of identity, address and bank account.
Cheung added that the government must create a balance between the convenience and the effectiveness of the scheme: “I understand the public’s demands. I have asked colleagues to handle [applications] as flexibly as possible over the next two months,” Cheung said.
“For example, some residents found that the application forms have all been handed out when they went to the Home Affairs Department or community centres. They will have to print the forms from the internet using their own white paper. This is not acceptable. So I have told colleagues this morning that we must provide paper.”
Cheung said the government printed around one million forms, but it should have printed more: “We should have adequate forms at community centres so residents won’t be anxious,” he said.
He added that an online application system was not considered since it may take 18 months for the government to accept public bids and build a reliable system.