Coronavirus pandemic

Appeals of self-employed who don't qualify for relief will be considered

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will be flexible in looking into the appeals of self-employed people who do not automatically qualify for a scheme to help those who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said yesterday.

In a Facebook post, Mrs Teo said there are three main types of appeals that MOM will look into: Those living in private properties with an annual value that is slightly more than $13,000; those whose spouses earn more than $70,000 a year but have many people at home to support; and those who have regular part-time work that pay a small salary, on top of self-employment.

The scheme, Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs), will be open to those who earn a net trade income of no more than $100,000, live in a property with an annual value of no more than $13,000, and do not own two or more properties.

They must also have started self-employment on or before March 25, and must not earn any income as employees.

If they are married, they and their spouse together must not own two or more properties, and the spouse's assessable income must not exceed $70,000.

About 88,000 self-employed persons will automatically qualify for the scheme and each will receive three quarterly cash payouts of $3,000 in May, July and October this year, MOM said last Friday.

Mrs Teo said that she hopes to provide an update on how the self-employed who do not meet the Sirs criteria can appeal in about a week, and said she and her MOM colleagues will try their best to address the appeals.

In the meantime, help for the self-employed or Singaporeans who run into financial difficulty as a result of the loss of income is available via the Temporary Relief Fund through the Social Service Offices, she said.

There will also be support from the Covid-19 Support Grant from May 1, she added. She also said in her post: "Interestingly, a number of people have cautioned me not to go overboard using taxpayers' monies because the criteria and payouts are already generous."

The Temporary Relief Fund gives lower-to middle-income Singaporeans and permanent residents who are not on ComCare assistance immediate financial aid to help with basic living expenses, while the Covid-19 Support Grant will provide longer-term financial assistance and job support.

Mrs Teo appealed for Singaporeans' patience and understanding. "Our team is fighting the Covid-19 battle on multiple fronts - from regulating the inflow of work pass holders into Singapore, to meeting employers' manpower needs and dealing with sudden policy changes by other countries, to preventing mass gatherings of foreign workers and ensuring safe distancing at workplaces.

"I'm very grateful to my colleagues for stepping up and taking on an enormous amount of extra but critical work."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2020, with the headline 'Appeals of self-employed who don't qualify for relief will be considered'. Print Edition | Subscribe