$1.1b in support for Singapore workers, employers: Lawrence Wong

·Senior News & Video Producer
·4-min read
People look at the Singapore city skyline on 7 June. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
People look at the Singapore city skyline on 7 June. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The Singapore government will require private landlords to match its two weeks of rental relief cash payouts for occupiers of privately owned commercial properties during the country's current Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period.

"In the last Heightened Alert, we did not require private landlords to extend rental relief. Instead we encouraged landlords to do their part to match the government relief. 

"However, many tenants, especially those in the affected F&B and retail sectors, have told us that not all landlords were forthcoming in providing such rental support," said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament on Monday (26 July) as he highlighted the latest round of government support measures.

Wong added that the government also recognised that not all landlords are in the same financial situation and that a process would be put in place to consider the circumstances of those facing "genuine hardship".

The government will also extend support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and eligible non-profit organisations by granting four weeks of rental waiver to qualifying tenants of government-owned commercial properties.

Other measures

Wong said the government will also be extending the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), which provides wage support for employers, for affected sectors by four weeks until 18 August.

He added that higher wage support would further mitigate the impact of protracted safe management measures and uncertainties. 

For sectors that are required to close or suspend their activities, 60 per cent JSS support will be provided – up from the 50 per cent that was previously given. "This will benefit the F&B, sports, performing arts and arts education sectors," said Wong.

Sectors significantly affected by the latest restrictions will be granted 40 per cent JSS support, up from 30 per cent previously. These benefits will cover footfall-dependent sectors such as retail, museums, art galleries, historical sites, cinema operators, some personal care services, and family entertainment centres.

The tourism sector will also receive 40 per cent support, which will benefit attractions, hotels, cruise and regional ferry operators, MICE organisers and travel agents.

Depending on how Singapore's COVID-19 situation evolves, the JSS support will be tapered down to 10 per cent for two weeks from 19 to 31 August as businesses reopen.

In recognition that hawkers and market stallholders have been "disproportionately affected" this time round, a new Market and Hawker Centre Relief Fund will be introduced. It will provide a one-off cash sum of $500 to each stallholder operating in government hawker centres and markets.

To help hawkers adapt to the latest disruptions, Enterprise Singapore will also reintroduce the Food Delivery Booster Package to help hawkers defray the costs of using online food delivery platforms. 

This support comes on top of the existing additional month of rental waivers and subsidies for dishwashing and table-cleaning fees, which were announced on 16 July, said Wong.

Taxi and private hire car drivers will also be provided greater assistance under the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund from 22 July to 30 September.

Workers facing a loss of income can turn to the COVID-19 Recovery Grant–Temporary scheme, which will have its period of coverage extended from end-July to end-August. "Eligible workers who continue to be impacted can re-apply to receive a second payout," said Wong.

How it will be funded

In total, the latest round of support measures is expected to cost $1.1 billion and will be funded through budget reallocation, said Wong. 

"First, we have worked with agencies to identify $0.9 billion of one-off underutilisation in operating and development expenditures. These are due to delays brought about by COVID-19. 

"They include postponement and cancellation of activities in schools due to COVID-19 and construction project delays," he said. Another $0.2 billion will come from a buffer that was presented during the Supplementary Estimate in July.

Wong also noted that the government support to workers and businesses over the two periods of Heightened Alert since May is estimated to total more than $2 billion.

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