COVID-19 Budget: $800 monthly grant for those jobless due to pandemic

A cleaner seen wearing a face mask along Orchard Road on 9 February 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
A cleaner seen wearing a face mask along Orchard Road on 9 February 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Low and middle-income workers who lose their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic will receive an $800 monthly grant for three months to help tide them over as they find new work or seek training.

The new COVID-19 Support Grant will be available through the government’s social service offices from May to September, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in Parliament on Thursday (26 March) while unveiling details of Singapore’s new $48 billion Resilience Budget.

More flexibility will also be exercised when it comes to considering applications for the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) ComCare scheme, which helps those facing financial hardship.

A Temporary Relief Fund will also be set up next month to help families in need of immediate assistance. This fund will be made available at the government’s social service offices and community centres.

“The best way to safeguard the well-being of our people is by supporting them to stay employed. But as the impact of COVID-19 on our economy deepens, some workers will lose their jobs or see their incomes significantly reduced. We will help them,” said Heng.

In total, $145 million will be set aside for these measures to help the unemployed, he added.

Help for lower income workers

For lower income workers who supplement their wages through the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme, their Workfare Special Payment payout will be increased to $3,000 each, in cash.

This is more than the Workfare Special Payment amount earlier announced during Heng’s Unity Budget speech in February.

The increased payout comes on top of a newly enhanced Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) which will see the government co-funding 25 per cent of local employer’s wages.

Firms in the food services sector will receive a higher co-funding of 50 per cent, while businesses involved in aviation and tourism – the two most affected by the pandemic – will receive 75 per cent wage support.

The monthly qualifying wage ceiling for the JSS will also be raise from $3,600 to $4,600, which is the median wage in Singapore, said Heng. The JSS will also be extended for another two quarters, till the end of this year, which will see employers receive three tranches of payouts – in May, July and October.

“With these enhancements, at total of $15.1 billion will be allocated to more than 1.9 million local employees under the Jobs Support Scheme,” said Heng.

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