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China has allocated 104 billion yuan (about 16 billion U.S. dollars) from its central budget to fund basic living allowances for needy people ahead of the upcoming Spring Festival, an official said on Monday.

Temporary assistance and subsidies will be provided directly by local authorities to those who face dire situations due to COVID-19, said Zhang Zaigang, deputy director of the social assistance department of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, at a press conference.

Zhang urged local authorities to ensure the timely distribution of subsistence funds to people ahead of the Spring Festival, the most important traditional Chinese festival, which falls on Feb. 12 this year.

Assistance should also be offered to low-income residents in the country’s northern areas to help them withstand the freezing winter temperatures, Zhang said.

Over 1.8 billion yuan in heating subsidies has been distributed in northern provincial-level regions including Heilongjiang and Liaoning, figures from the ministry show.

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