BUDGET 2016 - Shaping our future together: Helping families

She won't have to skip a meal now

Ms Goh, who is on the Public Assistance scheme, is divorced and estranged from her sibling and two children, and is unable to work. She currently receives $450 a month under the scheme and makes ends meet by combining breakfast and lunch into one mea
Ms Goh, who is on the Public Assistance scheme, is divorced and estranged from her sibling and two children, and is unable to work. She currently receives $450 a month under the scheme and makes ends meet by combining breakfast and lunch into one meal. With the enhancement to the scheme, she says that she might be able to save some money for emergencies.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Twice-divorced and estranged from her one living sibling and two children, Ms Goh Quee Eng, 58, also has depression and cannot work.

She has been surviving on long- term financial assistance from the Government of $450 a month since 2011 after her second marriage dissolved.

To make ends meet, she eats only two meals a day and keeps some bread for when she gets hungry.

Ms Goh told The Straits Times in Mandarin: "I am barely scraping by. I don't have any extra money to save for emergencies."

But a Budget announcement yesterday means Ms Goh can soon have three meals a day.

Singaporeans such as Ms Goh will get a raise in the monthly cash allowance for Public Assistance beneficiaries.

A LOAD OFF HER SHOULDERS

The extra allowance will help me ease my financial burdens. I will be able to buy food without worrying about whether I have enough money for the coming weeks.

MS GOH QUEE ENG

Public Assistance is for Singaporeans who are permanently unable to work, and lack income and family support. It has a cash component and also covers hygiene essentials and medical treatment.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said: "For example, a two-person household, where both are on public assistance, will now receive an additional $80 a month, bringing the amount of cash assistance per month to $870."

More details will be announced by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Currently, one-person households receive $450 a month, two-persons get $790, three-persons get $990 and four-persons get $1,180.

In 2014, some 4,134 people benefited from Public Assistance, also known as ComCare Long Term Assistance.

Ms Goh, who lives in a rental flat in Woodlands with two friends, is heartened by the announcement.

"The extra allowance will help me ease my financial burdens. I will be able to buy food without worrying about whether I have enough money for the coming weeks," she said.

She used to work as a cleaner before she was diagnosed with depression, and her second husband's income of $1,000 as a driver also helped. But now that she only has the $450 to depend on, Ms Goh worries about not having savings for emergencies.

"With the extra allowance, I can have three meals a day instead of merging breakfast and lunch into one meal," she said. "Maybe I can even save some money."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'She won't have to skip a meal now'. Print Edition | Subscribe