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Shanxi takes measures to prevent reversion to poverty during COVID-19 outbreak by Jin Ling,September 15, 2020 Adjust font size:

North China’s Shanxi province has been a major focus of the nation's poverty relief campaign as a result of the large swaths of poverty-stricken areas in its borders. On Feb. 27, 2020, the impoverished designation was removed from theprovince’s58 counties that had been classified as such, and thepoverty rate in the province fell below 0.1 percent. The sudden COVID-19 outbreak created new difficulties for Shanxi’s poverty alleviation undertaking, however, complicating its endeavor to assist its21,000 residents that currently remain in poverty out of it and its goal to help 124,000 inhabitantsthat hover around the poverty line live stable lives.

Charter transportation helps people get back to work

Highland regions in Shanxi, such as the Lyuliang, Yanshan and Taihang mountains areas, featured the highest concentrations of impoverished people in the province until recently. Guo Lanying who is in her 50s was born in Yangquanqu township, Xiaoyi city in Lyuliang prefectural city. She used to work in a restaurant at the municipal seat of Xiaoyi, and earned around 2,000 yuan (US$285) a month, which could barely make ends meet for herself and her family. In 2018, Guo attended a free healthcare training program provided by Lyuliang. The project has been a major part of the city’s poverty alleviation efforts. She completed the course, began working as a hospital caregiver in the coastal city of Qingdao in east China’s Shandong province, and currently earns more than 6,000 yuan (US$854) a month.

The company that Guo works for temporarily suspended operations at the beginning of the year as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and was not able to resume until early March. The caregiver and many of her coworkers also faced difficulties getting back to Qingdao after they returned to their hometowns for traditional new year holidays as a result of the travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

The Lyuliang government took measures such as connecting with employers through various online channels, establishing a health information exchange system with localities that they are located in, conducting free health checks for people like Guo, and helping them get back to their workplaces via chartered forms of transportation in order to address some of the problems that the COVID-19 outbreak has caused.

Guo and 29 other caregivers were able to return to Qingdao on March 4, and later 170 more people made their way back to places like Beijing, Tianjin, and Taiyuan to continue working. The Shanxi government organized 1,171 charter buses, trains, and flights in March, which made it possible for 25,000 people to return to the areas where they are employed.

Online and offline channels help farmers find customers

Shanxi also encourages schools, hospitals, government bodies, the military, and private enterprises to purchase goods from impoverished regions in order to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its impoverished farmers. Businesses that help poverty-stricken regions sell more than 10 million yuan (about US$1.43 million) of agricultural products online in a year are awarded with up to 500,000 yuan (US$71,350), or no more than 5 percent of net sales, as an incentive measure. The government also provides financial support to e-commerce projects in impoverished counties that are under development and covers costs related to the startup process, technical services, training, and other aspects of business.

All these endeavors helped impoverished regions in the province sell more than 7.6 million yuan (US$1.08 million) of agricultural goods from February to March of this year. The administrative area has also arranged poverty alleviation purchase projects with central government agencies and provinces that have entered into assistance agreements with it. Provincial-owned enterprises have also declared that they will increase annual purchase orders for 102 kinds of agricultural products produced by 62 companies that employ poverty-stricken people and cooperatives with impoverished members by at least 30 percent this year.

The Pingding County Agricultural Bureau monitors sales in all of the impoverished villages under its jurisdiction and helps make purchase and distribution arrangements for those that have overstocked products as a result of difficulties associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. For example, more than 5,000 kg of eggs produced by Liangjianao village’s Red Sun Cooperative were sold in just a few days after the bureau promoted them in various companies’ WeChat groups. An animal husbandry cooperative in Suotuo village, Yonghe county also had problems selling 60 head of cattle. Three poverty alleviation officials in the village contacted various online stores to assist with sales, and the Yonghe poverty alleviation office helped the cooperative connect with consumers and prioritized its impoverished members.

Enterprises such as Qinheyuan Agriculture, Forestry and Animal Husbandry Development Co. Ltd. in Qinyuan county used new media to market their products and ensured that they got sold during the pandemic period. It livestreamed video footage of its greenhouses in order to promote the flowers and vegetables that it grows.

Solar projects, subsidies, and other measures help increase incomes

With more than 2.95 million kW of grid-connected power generation capacity, Shanxi’s poverty-relief-oriented solar power projects rank among the top of those in any province in China. Shanxi has announced that it will allocate 80 percent of the profits from such solar power projects this year to cover things like salaries for impoverished people who work in public welfare positions, including those associated with village-level undertakings. The province’s poverty-relief-oriented solar power projects are expected to generate a total of 1.7 billion yuan (US$242.08 million) of income in 2020, which will make it possible for 230,000 impoverished people in its territory to earn an average of 5,000 additional yuan (US$712) this year.

Shanxi prioritizes allocation of poverty alleviation funds to projects that have been severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak as well. Subsidies were raised from 1,000 yuan to 1,500 yuan (US$142 to US$214) per person for companies that employ impoverished people during the pandemic period. A total of 483 poverty alleviation factories that employ 17,200 impoverished people and 376 enterprises that employ 57,200 impoverished people in the province all resumed operations in spring.

Differentiated measures related to credit application, renewal, and extension have also been designed and implemented for impoverished Shanxi residents. Approximately 174.61 million yuan (US$24.893 million) of new loans were issued to 3,939 impoverished households and 217 eligible households had renewed 10.15 million yuan (US$1.45 million) of loans as of early spring.

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