Caterers face cash-aid wait

Local | Michael Shum 2 Apr 2020

The catering industry's proposal for rental support has been rejected, but the government has promised to include the sector in the next round of the anti-epidemic fund.

Catering-sector lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan said after a meeting with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor that the government would not subsidize restaurant rents but will cover the sector in the fund's second round.

He quoted Lam as saying: "The second round of measures will focus on keeping employees in their jobs.

"There might be regulations that would require restaurants to pay the salaries of employees with the subsidies."

Cheung appealed to landlords to halve rents over the next three months, while also demanding rates for restaurants be waived for the second quarter.

Eating Establishment Employees General Union chairman Kwok Wang-hing said: "More than 600 restaurants have either ceased operations or even closed down, which is staggering."

He called for cash subsidies of up to HK$14,000 per month for at least six months for unemployed restaurant workers.

The news came as the sports, tutoring and tourism sectors also asked for further relief.

Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong vice president Kenneth Fok Kai-kong said coaches also need help.

"They still have to pay rents, but with less income than before."

Ann Yu Li-hua, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Professional Tourist Guides General Union, said: "Of 1,700 tour agencies, around 95 percent have already ceased operating, while the occupancy rate at hotels only reaches 20 percent at the highest."

In a videocall with Undersecretary for Education Choi Yuk-lin, lawmakers said extracurricular activity centers and small tuition centers were forced to stop operating.

Lawmaker Leung Che-cheung from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said: "Not only are business owners affected but the incomes of tutors are also affected."

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