Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has announced a third round of measures to further support businesses, workers and households through the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
The $5.1 billion Solidarity Budget aims to save jobs, protect livelihoods and help businesses preserve their capacity and capabilities during this period. To implement the new set of measures, DPM Heng shared that President Halimah Yacob has given in-principle support for to draw an additional $4 billion from Singapore’s past reserves.
Altogether, the Government’s response to the Covid-19 will cost $59.9 billion in total.
Here are some of the key highlights from the Solidarity Budget.
- Supporting businesses
DPM Heng annouced that a new Bill will be introduced in Parliament to let businesses and individuals defer certain contractual obligations. The Bill, he said, will ensure that property owners pass on the Property Tax Rebate in full, to tenants.
He added that the Government will take the lead in supporting tenants by increasing the rental waiver for industrial, office and agricultural tenants of Government to 1 month, up from 0.5 month rental waiver that was announced in the earlier Resilience Budget.
“Stallholders in hawker centres managed by NEA or NEA-appointed operators will continue to enjoy three months of rental waivers, while commercial tenants will continue to receive two months of rental waivers,” he said.
Under the enhancements to the Job Support Scheme, businesses can also look forward to more support for workers’ wages, especially during the 1-month circuit breaker which begins on 7 April 2020.
The Government will raise its wage subsidy for all businesses to 75 per cent of gross monthly wages, for the first S$4,600 of wages paid in April, for each local employee. This will benefit all of Singapore’s 1.9 million local workers.
To help business retain their workers, the monthly Foreign Worker Levy will be waived in April, and employers will also receive a Foreign Worker Levy Rebate of $750 for each work permit or S pass holder.
“The Government recognises that firms have been paying Foreign Worker Levies in normal times. So in these exceptional times, we are temporarily redirecting resources back to the firms, to enable them to provide support for their foreign workers,” he said.
- Greater support for those who are self-employed
The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) will be extended to include self-employed people who also earn a small income from employment as well as those who live in properties with an annual value of up to $21,000.
With these enhancements, about 100,000 self-employed people will be eligible for the scheme – up from 88,000 previously. They will receive three quarterly cash payouts of $3,000 in May, July and October this year.
DPM Heng noted that this is the first time that the Government is providing direct cash support to self-employed persons on such a large scale. He hopes that by helping this group, they too can help others in their networks, and their workers, and “keep the spirit of enterprise alive”.
Separately, DPM Heng shared that the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has stepped up to help the Ministry of Manpower to administer the applications and appeals for SIRS.
Given the highly fluid situation, DPM Heng reiterated that the Government stands ready to provide more support, should it become necessary.
In closing, DPM Heng said, “We have the plans, and the financial resources to carry out these plans without burdening future generations with the bill. We are grateful to our founding generation for their foresight and discipline. The key now is in how we pull together, in solidarity, as a nation to implement these plans, and make adjustments as the situation continues to evolve.”
- Helping households and Singaporeans
Households will see the enhanced support from April through December 2020 as the Government continues to help Singaporeans tide through this financially tough time.
For a start, Singaporeans who have lost their job or whose income is affected by at least 30% due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, may apply for the Temporary Relief Fund. Offered throughout the month of April, the fund provides a one-off $500 assistance.
All adult Singaporeans will receive Solidarity Payment of $600 one-off payout. This amount comprises of a new payout of $300 and a brought forward cash payout of $300 to $600 from the enhanced Care and Support package – depending on eligibility – an increase from the initial support package.
The remaining cash payouts under the Care and Support package has been brought forward to June 2020, instead of the initial August 2020.