Coronavirus: Weathering the storm

Bigger cash payouts for households to cope with expenses

Apart from cash payouts for households, the enhanced package includes more grocery vouchers for the needy and topped-up grants for self-help groups.
Apart from cash payouts for households, the enhanced package includes more grocery vouchers for the needy and topped-up grants for self-help groups.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Cash payouts announced earlier to be tripled; more support for low-wage workers, parents

Cash payouts announced in Budget 2020 will be tripled, with every adult Singaporean getting $300, $600 or $900 depending on his or her income, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

The extra money for parents with at least one Singaporean child aged 20 and younger this year will also go up from $100 to $300.

"Many Singaporeans are concerned about how they will pay their bills and household expenses if their livelihoods are affected during this uncertain period," Mr Heng told Parliament. "We will put more cash in the hands of all families to help them cope."

These changes are part of the expanded Care and Support Package in the supplementary budget, delivered yesterday by Mr Heng. The package originally cost $1.6 billion, but will now cost $4.6 billion.

Apart from cash for households, the enhanced package includes more grocery vouchers for the needy and topped-up grants for self-help groups.

Low-income Singaporeans, who were slated to get $100 a year in grocery vouchers for this year and the next, will now have this year's allowance bumped up to $300.

This means that they will get a total of $400 in grocery vouchers between now and next year.

And given the need for social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak, the $100 PAssion Card top-up for seniors, announced in the Budget last month, will be given in cash instead.

"This is to avoid the need to queue at top-up stations during this period," said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister. People will get the money directly in their designated bank accounts.

In addition, the Workfare special payment for low-wage workers will be increased to $3,000 in cash.

Workfare helps those whose earnings are in the bottom 20 per cent, with some support for those slightly above. This group was originally supposed to get an additional 20 per cent of the total annual Workfare Income Supplement payout they received last year, with the highest payout at $720.

With all the additional reliefs, a young family living in a three-room flat with a combined income of $4,500 a month will get around $2,900 from the enhanced Care and Support Package for their household expenses.

This is on top of what they would receive from other schemes, such as childcare subsidies, the Baby Bonus and MediShield Life subsidies.

  • $100 

    How much a year low-income Singaporeans were slated to get in grocery vouchers for this year and the next.

    $300 

    How much they will get this year instead, which means that they will get a total of $400 in grocery vouchers between now and next year.

Similarly, a three-generation family living in a five-room flat, with a combined income of $6,500, can expect to get $6,680 of extra support.

Mr Heng added that the Government will also double the $10 million grant to self-help groups over two years so that they can help more families.

 
 

On top of that, the five Community Development Councils, which run schemes to meet the needs of families in their areas, will also get $75 million, up from $20 million before.

The minister also noted that the labour movement has been helping workers and self-employed persons.

Last week, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) announced a one-time payment of up to $300 for eligible union members. The payment will be funded by a $25 million sum set aside by NTUC, unions and the Government.

It also announced a $4 million top-up to the Self-Employed Person Training Support Scheme on Wednesday, which will give union members up to an additional $1 per hour in training allowance.

 
 

This is on top of an increase in the hourly training allowance from $7.50 to $10, which was announced by the minister in his statement yesterday.

"We will protect jobs, support our workers and protect livelihoods," Mr Heng said. "We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and are prepared to take swift action to do more if needed."

Read Mr Heng's full speech here.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2020, with the headline 'Bigger cash payouts for households to cope with expenses'. Print Edition | Subscribe