Households

HDB households to get extra help

Additional $850m for measures including utility bill rebates and one-off cash payment

About 880,000 eligible Singaporean households will get extra rebates on utilities to help them cope with the upcoming hike in water prices.

It was one of a number of measures aimed at supporting households amid rising costs and a slowing economy.

The Government will provide more than $850 million in additional funds this year to lend households a hand. These will go into measures ranging from rebates on utility bills and personal income tax, to a one-off cash payment set to benefit more than 1.3 million Singaporeans.

The key announcement was the permanent $40 to $120 increase in the GST Voucher - Utilities-Save (U-Save) rebate, depending on the type of Housing Board flat that the recipient lives in. The benefit announced yesterday means that 75 per cent of all HDB households will face a rise in their monthly water bills of less than $12 on average - if their water use is unchanged.

Families in one- and two-room flats - who are set to receive $380 worth of rebates each year, up from $260 now - will have no increase in water expenses on average.

In total, the changes will cost an additional $71 million a year.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said: "The U-Save rebate will soften the impact of the water price increase. Even as we provide this assistance, we should not lose sight of the scarcity of water, and thus should conserve it."

The rebate is one of three components under the annual GST Voucher scheme introduced in Budget 2012 to help lower- and middle-income households with their expenses.

The other two parts are a cash payment and Medisave top-ups.

One-off, additional payments are occasionally given. This year, Singaporeans will get a "cash special payment" for the second year running.

More than 1.3 million people are set to receive a one-off GST Voucher of up to $200.

This means that eligible recipients - Singaporeans aged 21 and above, who earned $28,000 or less in the Year of Assessment 2016 - could get up to $500 in cash this year.

The special payment will cost about $280 million.

The third measure to support households involves the service and conservancy charges rebate.

This was introduced in Budget 2016 as a one-off rebate, but it will be extended this year and increased.

COPING WITH PRICE HIKE

The U-Save rebate will soften the impact of the water price increase.

FINANCE MINISTER HENG SWEE KEAT

About 880,000 HDB households will now get 1.5 to 3.5 months of rebates for financial year 2017 - up from one to three months previously. The measure will cost the Government $120 million. Last year, $86 million in rebates went to about 840,000 households.

There will also be a 20 per cent rebate on tax payable for income earned in 2016, capped at $500.

The Government will also top up several funds.

The permanent increase in U-Save rebates and other future GST Voucher payments will be supported by an additional $1.5 billion going into the GST Voucher Fund.

There will also be a $500 million top-up to Medifund, which helps the needy pay healthcare bills, bringing its total to $4.5 billion.

 

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This will support rising Medifund utilisation, which has increased by an average of 9 per cent per year from financial year 2013 - when the last top-up of $1 billion was made - to financial year 2015.

Finally, an additional $200 million will go to the Community Care Endowment Fund, set up in 2005 to fund assistance programmes for low-income Singaporeans.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2017, with the headline 'HDB households to get extra help'. Print Edition | Subscribe