Budget 2016: She won't have to skip a meal now

Budget 2016: She won't have to skip a meal now
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Twice-divorced and estranged from her one living sibling and two children, Ms Goh Quee Eng, 58, also has depression and cannot work.

She has been surviving on long- term financial assistance from the Government of $450 a month since 2011 after her second marriage dissolved.

To make ends meet, she eats only two meals a day and keeps some bread for when she gets hungry.

Ms Goh told The Straits Times in Mandarin: "I am barely scraping by. I don't have any extra money to save for emergencies."

But a Budget announcement yesterday means Ms Goh can soon have three meals a day.

Singaporeans such as Ms Goh will get a raise in the monthly cash allowance for Public Assistance beneficiaries.

Public Assistance is for Singaporeans who are permanently unable to work, and lack income and family support. It has a cash component and also covers hygiene essentials and medical treatment.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said: "For example, a two-person household, where both are on public assistance, will now receive an additional $80 a month, bringing the amount of cash assistance per month to $870."

More details will be announced by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Currently, one-person households receive $450 a month, two-persons get $790, three-persons get $990 and four-persons get $1,180.

In 2014, some 4,134 people benefited from Public Assistance, also known as ComCare Long Term Assistance.

Ms Goh, who lives in a rental flat in Woodlands with two friends, is heartened by the announcement.

"The extra allowance will help me ease my financial burdens. I will be able to buy food without worrying about whether I have enough money for the coming weeks," she said.

She used to work as a cleaner before she was diagnosed with depression, and her second husband's income of $1,000 as a driver also helped. But now that she only has the $450 to depend on, Ms Goh worries about not having savings for emergencies.

"With the extra allowance, I can have three meals a day instead of merging breakfast and lunch into one meal," she said. "Maybe I can even save some money."

This article was first published on March 25, 2016.
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