Covid-19 aid: Billion-dollar measures to help Singapore's workers, self-employed and unemployed

Mr Heng revealed measures to help people stay employed, support the self-employed, unemployed and low-income workers, and provide job opportunities and training. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - A substantial chunk of the more than $48 billion Supplementary Budget announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Thursday (March 26) will go to supporting workers and saving jobs in this time of the coronavirus.

Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, revealed measures to help people stay employed, support the self-employed, unemployed and low-income workers, and provide job opportunities and training. Here are some of the key measures.

1. Wage subsidies expanded, extended

The Jobs Support Scheme, introduced in Mr Heng's Feb 18 Budget speech to help retain local workers, will be enhanced and extended, bringing the total support to $15.1 billion for over 1.9 million employees.

First, more will be able to benefit from the scheme, as the qualifying monthly wage ceiling will be raised from $3,600 to $4,600 - the median wage in Singapore.

This means the Government will co-fund up to 25 per cent of the first $4,600 of the worker's wage, up from 8 per cent announced earlier.

Sectors worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic will get more help.

The aviation and tourism sectors will have 75 per cent of wages supported, while food services will get 50 per cent.

The scheme as a whole will be extended for two more quarters till the end of the year. This means firms will get three payout tranches, in May, July and October.

2. Monthly cash payouts for self-employed

Eligible self-employed Singaporeans will get $1,000 in cash a month for nine months.

This comes under a new Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme that will cost $1.2 billion in total.

Details on the scheme will be released by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) soon.

Another $48 million will go towards extending the Self-Employed Person Training Support Scheme till the end of the year, with hourly training allowances increased to $10 from $7.50.

3. Payouts for lower-income workers increased

The Workfare Special Payment announced in the Feb 18 Budget for lower-income workers - including those self-employed - will be increased to $3,000, in cash.

Previously, this year's Budget gave those on Workfare last year a one-off payment amounting to 20 per cent of their 2019 payout, with a $100 minimum.

4. Creating jobs, training for first-time job seekers

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About 10,000 new jobs will be created over the next year under an SGUnited Jobs initiative.

This includes jobs for emerging areas in the public sector, long-term roles in essential services, and also short-term jobs to handle the Covid-19 crisis.

There will also be private sector jobs from firms recruiting due to short-term manpower issues, or in preparation for the eventual recovery.

A virtual career fair will be launched by Workforce Singapore on Friday with 2,200 immediately available vacancies.

A new SGUnited Traineeships programme will support up to 8,000 opportunities for first-time job seekers to get work experience, across large and small enterprises.

Workforce Singapore will co-share the manpower costs. The MOM will announce more details soon.

5. Helping the unemployed

Mr Heng will set aside $145 million to help the unemployed through the social service offices (SSOs) and community centres. This will include greater flexibility for ComCare applications, and a temporary relief fund to be set up in April for families that need urgent help.

A new Covid-19 Support Grant will also be administered by the SSOs from May to September. This will give $800 per month for three months for those who lost their jobs while they find new work or seek training.

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