SCIO briefing on the work of civil affairs departments on COVID-19 control and livelihood security

The State Council Information Office held a press conference Monday morning in Beijing to introduce the work of civil affairs departments to prevent and control the COVID-19 epidemic and to secure people's basic livelihood. March 10, 2020

Hong Kong Economic Herald: 

Many people who were living a passable life have met difficulties since the outbreak of COVID-19. They may not thoroughly understand the social assistance policies and procedures. How will the civil affairs authorities respond to and address their needs in a timely manner?

Zhan Chengfu: 

The Department of Social Assistance of the Ministry of Civil Affairs is in charge of social assistance work. I'd like to invite Mr. Liu Xitang to answer your question.

Liu Xitang:

Let me take this question. The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought many challenges for social assistance work. We have taken a slew of measures to promptly respond to public concerns and guarantee the living security for those who are in severe difficulties. It is our mission to help and save anyone in need, an important guideline for our work. On Jan. 29, we announced new arrangements and deployments in a notice. Responding to the new requirements of the Central Leading Group for COVID-19 Prevention and Control based on the current situation of epidemic prevention and control, we have adopted the following measures to promptly respond to people's needs for social assistance.

First, we have streamlined all procedures. In the past, to fairly assign the minimum living allowances, we have to go through a door-to-door household survey, democratic appraisal, and publicizing beneficiaries. Now, we conduct the household survey in a long-distance-range or non-contact mode, such as making inquiry calls or verifying applicants' financial situation based on big data. We have established a household financial situation checking system that can be shared among different departments. Also, we have halted the work of disqualifying basic living allowances beneficiaries in epidemic-stricken areas and it won't start until the crisis has passed. 

Second, we encourage the use of information technology. We deployed local civil affairs departments to respond promptly to applications, and they have taken to online platforms to manage the work of social assistance. For example, Sichuan province has developed an online platform to manage this vital work. People can apply through the WeChat remotely. We have also taken other measures, such as delegating the authority to examine and approve items down to lower administrative levels. For the hardest-hit areas we permitted government agencies to delegate the authority to examine and approve items for temporary assistance directly to communities. Community workers in Wuhan and other areas most affected by the epidemic can respond to the need of people in difficulties promptly and carry out assistance at first hand, and the information about the application of social assistance can be added later.

The third is to open up helplines. Channels through which the people in difficulty can make their voices heard about any difficulties are being smoothed out. People can dial the helplines for help and know whom to ask for. The Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council has released the helpline information to the public, and the local governments have opened up the 12345 hotline service. We have also required the local civil affairs departments to promote knowledge of these helplines. Now, the helplines have been opened up at the county level, and we will put the information on the website of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Fourth, there is the aspect of policy promotion. From Jan. 29 to now, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, local governments and the Central Leading Group for COVID-19 Prevention and Control have issued a series of measures to protect the people in need. How can these measures be conveyed in a timely manner? We need to strengthen the promotion of these policies and encourage the use of new media, such as Weibo and WeChat. So, we hope you can follow our WeChat official accounts (ID: ZGMZWX and zhongguoshehuibao). Policies will be released on these platforms in the first place, and we also welcome more reports about our policies. Thank you.

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