Three days after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced elevated “circuit breaker” measures to contain the Covid-19 spread in Singapore, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat unveiled yet another supplementary budget today (April 6, 2020) to help Singapore families and companies deal with what he described as an unprecedented, generational crisis.
Dubbed the Solidarity Budget, these additional measures will cost $5.1 billion, and expands on measures already introduced in the Unity Budget ($6.4 billion) and Resilience Budget ($48.4 billion).
To help you make sense of all the announcements made within a short span of 7 week, here’s a consolidated look at all the various forms of support Singaporeans can look forward to as they deal with the ongoing financial impact of Covid-19 on the economy and their livelihoods.
#1 Care and support – Cash, Passion Card Top-up, Solidarity payment
To give Singaporeans assurance and support on their household expenses during this time of extraordinary economic uncertainty, the government announced and enhanced cash payouts during each of the Budgets.
The Care and Support – Cash provides between $300 to $900 to all Singaporeans aged 21 and above, depending on their annual income, with payments to be made by June 2020.
To help Singaporeans cope with the “Circuit Breaker”, a cash payout of $600 will be made by April 14, 2020, if your bank account details were provided to the government. This consists of the first $300 payout from the Care and Support – Cash and an additional $300 one-off Solidarity Payment.
In addition, each Singaporean parent with at least one Singaporean child aged 20 and below will receive Additional Enhanced Care and Support – Cash of $300.
Finally, with the conversion of the Passion Card Top-up to a cash payment, Singaporeans aged 50 and above in 2020 will receive an additional $100.
In total, Singaporeans will receive between $600 to $1,600 from these cash payments. This table summarises the quantum and timeline of these cash payments.
#2 Workfare Special Payment
Workfare is an important scheme that provides income supplements to lower-earning Singaporean workers or self-employed persons above the age of 35 as well as persons with disabilities who meet the Workfare criteria.
For those who are receiving Workfare in 2019, Budget 2020 provides for a Workfare Special Payment of $3,000, paid over two equal payments in July and Oct 2020.
#3 Grocery Vouchers
To help the needy with their daily necessities, Singaporeans aged 21 years and above who live in 1-room and 2-room HDB flats and don’t own more than one property will receive $300 in Grocery Vouchers in 2020 and an additional $100 in 2021.
These vouchers can be spent at participating supermarkets, which to-date includes NTUC FairPrice, Giant and Sheng Siong. Vouchers for 2020 will be given out in Oct and Dec 2020, with more details being announced at a later date.
#4 GST Voucher – U-Save Special Payment
The GST Voucher is a permanent scheme to help Singaporeans living in HDB flats cope with the rising cost of living. It consists of a three components: A Cash payout, U-Save rebates (to offset utility bills), and MediSave top-ups.
For FY2020 (covering April 2020 to March 2021), all eligible HDB households will receive double what they usually receive from GST Voucher – U-Save, in the form of a one-off GST Voucher – U-Save Special Payment.
Larger households with 5 or more members will receive additional rebate of 0.5 times their regular GST Voucher – U-Save rebate.
In total, each Singaporean household will be receiving between $480 to $1,000 worth of GST Voucher – U-Save rebates, which will be credited in April 2020, July 2020, Oct 2020 and Jan 2021.
Additional amounts from GST Voucher – U-Save Special Payment will credited in April and July 2020, while larger households will receive their additional rebates in Oct 2020 and Jan 2021.
#5 Service and Conservancy Charges Rebate
Singaporean households living in HDB flats, and do not have any family members owning private property, and have not rented out their entire flats, will receive Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) Rebates in FY2020 (covering April 2020 to March 2021).
These rebates will range between 1.5 months to 3.5 months worth of S&CC charges and be made over 4 quarters, which also correspond to the GSV Voucher – U-Save crediting months of April 2020, July 2020, October 2020 and January 2021.
#6 Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS)
Self-employed persons and freelancers were particularly hard-hit by the Covid-19 crisis, which includes among their ranks taxi driver, hawkers, freelance creatives, property agents and tuition teachers.
This includes Singaporeans who derive a small income from employment, but whose loss of side hustle had a big impact on their earnings.
To help them cushion the blow, the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) was introduced to provide cash payouts of $9,000 over 9 months.
You can read more about the eligibility criteria at DollarsAndSense Business, which produces content specifically for entrepreneurs, freelancers and self-employed persons, aimed at helping them build better businesses.
After expansion of criteria, some 100,000 self-employed persons will automatically be eligible for SIRS, and will receive 3 payments of $3,000 in May 2020, July 2020, and Oct 2020.
#7 Temporary Relief Fund, Covid-19 Support Grant, Financial Assistance
The government recognises that some Singaporeans may need immediate support, before the comprehensive set of cash payments, rebates and vouchers kick-in.
Towards this end, a Temporary Relief Fund was set-up to provide a one-off $500 cash financial support to lower- to middle-income Singaporeans who faced job loss or income loss of at least 30 per cent during the Covid-19 crisis. Applications can be made online between 9am to 6pm daily from now till April 30, 2020.
Further, a Covid-19 Support Grant will be set-up to provide financial support while those who lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19 find new work or attend training.
Applications for the grant can be made at the nearest Social Service Office between May 2020 and Sept 2020, with successful applicants receiving $800 in cash over 3 months.
Lastly, for those who still require further assistance on top of what is already highlighted, can approach community Self-Help Groups (SHG) and Community Development Councils (CDC), who have been provided with additional funding from the government to scale up their assistance to vulnerable Singaporeans.
Unprecedented Budget(s) for an extraordinary challenge
The above measures are direct financial support provided to individual Singaporean and PRs, and their households.
The government has also provided extensive support to help companies retain and retrain their staff, including an unprecedented subsidy of 75 per cent of the first $4,600 of wages of all 1.9 million Singaporean and PR workers in April, and further wage subsidies in the months to come.
There has also been other relief measures for SMEs to help manage their cashflow and provide additional financing.
From a legislation perspective, the Ministry of Law has also loosened the contractual obligations of companies affected by Covid-19, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore has introduced flexibility in loan and insurance premium payments.
The government has stated that it will continue to monitor the situation closely, and be ready to provide further support, should it be necessary.
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This article was first published in Dollars and Sense.