SINGAPORE - A $900 million Household Support package will be introduced for families amid the uncertain economic situation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced on Tuesday (Feb 16).
The package includes vouchers that each household can use to defray expenses and support local businesses, as well as service and conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates and goods and services tax (GST) vouchers.
About 1.3 million households will receive $100 Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers that can be used at participating heartland shops and hawker centres. More details on this will be announced by the CDCs later. To fund this, an additional grant of $150 million will be provided to the CDCs.
Mr Heng said the move is not only to thank all Singaporeans for their sense of solidarity but to continue supporting heartland businesses and hawkers.
"Singaporeans' sense of unity and discipline in observing the precautionary measures such as safe distancing and mask wearing has enabled our progress so far in combating the pandemic. The discipline and understanding of our local merchants and hawkers have also been important. However, they have been quite affected by the safety measures, especially during the circuit breaker," he noted.
Eligible Singaporean households in Housing Board flats will also receive rebates to offset between 1.5 and 3.5 months of S&CC charges over the year, said Mr Heng.
About 950,000 Singaporean households will be able to receive these rebates over four quarters - in April, July, October and January next year (2022).
About 1.4 million lower-income Singaporeans will also get an additional GST Voucher-Cash Special Payment of $200 in June, on top of the regular GST Voucher cash payout.
About 950,000 households will also get additional utilities rebates of between $120 and $200 under the GST Voucher-U-Save Special Payment that will be credited in April and July. This means they will receive 1.5 times their usual annual rebate.
Singaporean children below the age of 21 will also get a $200 top-up to their Child Development Account, Edusave account, or Post-Secondary Education Account which can help fund education-related expenses. This will benefit about 780,000 children.
Mr Heng said the package comes on top of immediate relief and support measures introduced for families and workers over five Budgets in 2020, including the Solidarity Payment, Covid-19 Support Grant, Temporary Relief Fund and grocery vouchers for lower-income groups.
"This Household Support Package provides some support to all families, with lower- to middle-income families receiving more," he said.
Mr Heng also said Singaporeans have supported one another amid the pandemic, and stayed united in the face of adversity.
"Social cohesion does not happen naturally. Even before Covid-19, many societies were facing sharp divisions due to widening inequalities, increasing diversity of interests and voices, and growing distrust. The pandemic has deepened the cracks in many societies," said Mr Heng, adding that Singapore is not immune to these challenges.
"We must continue to strengthen our social fabric, and reject forces of division and discord."
This article was first published in The Straits Times.