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Thousands more eligible for welfare as poverty line rises

TAIPEI--Sixty thousand more people living around Taiwan are eligible for government subsidies for lower-income families this year, an official said Monday as she promoted a new hotline offering information on subsidies and welfare.

The number will grow because poverty lines were increased in most parts of Taiwan.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare decided late last year that the poverty line in Taiwan, excluding the five main metropolitan areas and the outlying Kinmen and Lienchiang counties, should be raised to NT$10,869 (US$358.69) per person per month from NT$10,244.

In Taiwan's five special municipalities, which have the discretion to set their own poverty lines, New Taipei, Tainan and Taichung raised the income levels defining the poor and near poor while Taipei and Kaohsiung kept theirs unchanged.

The new standards are expected to add 60,000 more people to the list of those in Taiwan who qualify for welfare programs, including living allowances and subsidies for their children's education and medical bills, according to Lee Mei-chen, a ministry official.

At the same time, Lee unveiled a 1957 hotline that citizens can use to find out if they qualify for government assistance.

In 2013, the number of people eligible for lower-income subsidies stood at 696,156.

The figure included 361,765 low-income individuals who fell below the poverty line and 334,391 near poor individuals, whose income fell below 1.5 times the poverty line.

The poverty line is 60 percent of the median monthly disposable income in the region they live in.

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