A government panel will be more flexible on providing compensation for psychological damage to Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees who are relying on the payments while their hometowns are decontaminated and rebuilt.
The one-year limit on the compensation payments after evacuation orders are lifted will remain, in principle. But the evaluation committee for nuclear damage compensation disputes said the period can be extended if the circumstances require it.
Specifically, the panel said sufficient social infrastructure and a job environment should be in place in the affected municipalities before any decision is made to cut off the compensation.
The committee’s proposal compiled on Oct. 25 also said residents will not be required to return to their hometowns to be eligible for the payments.
Additional compensation payments for lost wages or decreased business would continue even after evacuation orders are lifted, according to the panel.
The science ministry committee will include the measures in new compensation guidelines to be compiled before the end of the year.
Evacuees receive 100,000 yen ($1,030) a month in psychological suffering compensation. The money is tax-exempt and paid unconditionally.
Currently, about 84,000 evacuees receive the payments.
Many people stuck in temporary housing rely on the payments. Others use the money for monthly living expenses because relocating has reduced their income and made it difficult to secure jobs suited to their skills.
The committee’s proposal also allows for a further extension of the compensation period if psychological suffering continues under special circumstances.
Some panel members had said the one-year extension, proposed on Oct. 1, was too short considering the lack of essential social infrastructure in many of the municipalities affected by the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
They also raised concerns about the difficulties residents would face in returning home if there were no jobs in the community or if businesses that sell daily goods and services had not returned.
Yoshihisa Nomi, professor of law at Gakushuin University who heads the panel, indicated that consideration would be given if new problems emerged when the evacuees return to their homes.
Evacuation orders for the areas are expected to be lifted after radiation levels are lowered and services such as water supply and electricity are restored.
Currently, 11 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture are under evacuation orders of various levels depending on their radiation levels. So far, the orders have not been lifted for any municipality.
The Miyakoji district of Tamura will likely become the first community where the order is lifted. Electricity, gas, and medical services have been almost completely restored, and the central government has completed its decontamination work in the area.
In August, residents were permitted to make long-term stays at their homes in Miyakoji.
Debate among the municipalities emerged over the compensation period for psychological suffering.
One Miyakoji resident was in favor of cutting off the compensation after a year so that people would stop depending on the payments and move forward with their lives.
Norio Kanno, the mayor of Iitate, where all residents continue to lead lives as evacuees, said one year was an appropriate cutoff point because residents would not feel the need to return to work if the compensation was overly extended.
However, Katsunobu Sakurai, the mayor of Minami-Soma, said: “Residents will be puzzled by the across-the-board one-year extension. Decontamination and removal of rubble has still not been completed.”
The panel’s proposal was based largely on science ministry information about the circumstances surrounding families that left their homes around the nuclear plant.
The information presented at the Oct. 25 meeting showed that, on average, a family of four forced out of no-entry zones had received about 90 million yen in compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co. as of Sept. 20.
It also found that the average compensation amount for property, such as real estate, building and furniture, was 49.1 million yen, while the average compensation for lost wages was 10.9 million yen.
An additional 30 million yen was paid as consolation money for pain and suffering.
The ministry had previously estimated that four-member families would receive 63.03 million yen based on compensation standards set by the evaluation committee and TEPCO.
A ministry official said the difference in amounts arose because families that had reached agreement with TEPCO on compensation tended to be better off because they owned apartment buildings or large plots of land.
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