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Money donated for orphans unused

 February 23, 2015

4 billion yen donated for disaster orphans in Miyagi remains unallocated



Around half of the 8.2 billion yen donated to Miyagi Prefecture to help children orphaned by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami has been left unallocated for nearly four years, it has been learned.

Officials have already decided to use some of the money to pay grants to students orphaned by the quake, but this will use up only about half of the donations. The prefectural government plans to find ways to expand its use of the money, but to do so it needs to consider revising an ordinance, and so far has yet to settle on a plan.

In 2011, the Miyagi Prefectural Government passed an ordinance establishing the "Earthquake disaster Miyagi children's education fund" to provide grants to students orphaned by the disaster. As of the end of last year, donations to the fund topped 8.21 billion yen.

The prefecture's fund pays elementary and junior high school students who lost their parents to the disaster 10,000 yen a month, while high school students get 20,000 yen per month. As of the end of July last year, 1,019 students had received a total of 890.24 million yen.

However, even if all of those children continued to receive these grants until they graduated, the total would only reach about 4 billion yen.

The prefecture has been reluctant to increase the amount, partly because some children have already graduated, and partly because it would create too much of a disparity between them and children orphaned by traffic accidents.

As students in the prefecture have had the highest rate of nonattendance at junior high school for two straight years and mental care is emerging as an issue, prefectural officials are considering expanding the funds to other children hit by the disaster, not just those who lost their parents. However, the central government already provides funds for this, so the prefecture has delayed its decision, waiting to see whether the central government will continue this support beyond fiscal 2016.

Iwate and Fukushima prefectures have already increased payments to orphaned children or expanded coverage to all children in disaster-hit areas, leaving Miyagi Prefecture alone with no clear forecast for spending the large remainder of its donations.

In fiscal 2012, Iwate Prefecture started providing funds to pay for textbooks and uniforms for children hit by the disaster, and in fiscal 2013, it roughly doubled student grants to orphaned children.

Fukushima Prefecture, meanwhile, revised an ordinance in 2012 so it could apply funds to subsidize the education of all children in the prefecture under the age of 18. It now also uses funds for dietary education and in supporting nonprofit organizations. Before revising the ordinance, it sent letters informing all donors of its plan to expand use of their funds, but did not receive any objections, prefectural officials said.

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