Businesses welcome wage support, other measures in $1.1b Covid-19 relief package

Firms in the hardest-hit sectors will receive 60 per cent of wage support for the heightened alert period.
Firms in the hardest-hit sectors will receive 60 per cent of wage support for the heightened alert period.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The additional wage support during this period of tightened measures is a much-needed relief for firms, said business and trade associations.

Businesses welcomed the $1.1 billion Covid-19 support package announced by the Ministry of Finance on Friday (July 23), which comes as Singapore steps up Covid-19 restrictions to stem infections in the community.

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) president Kurt Wee said that businesses can find relief in the enhanced wage subsidies under the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS).

Firms in the hardest-hit sectors such as food and beverage, gyms, fitness studios, performing arts and arts education will receive 60 per cent of wage support for the heightened alert period.

Those operating in sectors significantly affected by restrictions, such as retail, tourist attractions, and meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions (Mice) organisers, will get 40 per cent support.

Earlier this week, the Alliance of Frontline Business Trade Associations appealed for help in the areas of rent relief, wage support and extension of bank loan principal moratoriums, highlighting concerns about the sustainability of their businesses, given the stricter regulations in place.

On Friday, a spokesman for the alliance said that front-line businesses are thankful for the enhanced and comprehensive support.

"This package will help reduce the bleeding by businesses, but no doubt, there will be businesses that simply cannot sustain themselves any longer," the spokesman said.

"We hope landlords and banks will treat these businesses with sympathy and compassion."

It also added that government-mandated rental reliefs, which the Ministry of Law will share more details on, will go a long way towards institutionalising a culture of fair sharing of burden between partners.

Mr Wee said that Asme is aware that many companies have been preparing manpower cuts.

"With this JSS announcement and the announcement that the Ministry of Law will look at equitable load sharing of rental costs in such an economic environment, I believe and hope that businesses will be in a better position to push and sustain through this trying period without manpower cuts," he added.

While the package is a relief for retailers, a spokesman for the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) called for the Government to reconsider, and enhance the JSS support for retailers to 60 per cent.

This is as the ban on dining-in at F&B establishments has an equally dire or even greater impact on retail, the spokesman said.

The SRA also said that foreign worker levy waivers till the end of the year would be helpful for retailers.

"(This will) help keep the business and economy going, as it is challenging to find locals to take up some of these front-line retail and back-end jobs occupied by foreign workers," its spokesman said.

Mr Sean Tan, president of the Singapore Fitness Alliance, is hoping that the JSS and rent relief payouts will be disbursed soon to ease businesses' cash flow concerns.

"Our businesses hinge on public confidence, and we find our membership bases shrinking each time tightened measures are imposed on us," he said.

"And just as we start to rebuild, we face new lockdowns or restrictions. We certainly hope that this is the last set of tightening measures."

• Additional reporting by Laura Chia