SINGAPORE - The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs) will be extended to include self-employed people who also earn a small income from employment as well as those who live in properties with an annual value of up to $21,000.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced these enhancements in Parliament on Monday (April 6) as part of a third Budget to help tide Singaporeans through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sirs, which was first announced on March 26, will disburse $9,000 in cash over nine months to eligible self-employed people. But some felt the criteria were too stringent.
It previously excluded those living in properties with an annual value of more than $13,000 and those who earned any income as employees.
Mr Heng on Monday said he would extend the scheme to automatically include self-employed people who also earn a small income from employment work.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo later elaborated that this amount would be capped at $2,300 per month, which is the current Workfare income ceiling.
Mr Heng would also raise the annual value threshold from $13,000 to $21,000. This will include most condominiums outside prime areas and some other private properties.
With these enhancements, about 100,000 self-employed people will be eligible for the scheme - up from 88,000 previously - and will receive three quarterly cash payouts of $3,000 in May, July and October this year.
Other criteria, such as the rule that the self-employed person and their spouse together must not own two or more properties, and that the spouse's assessable income must not exceed $70,000, will not change.
Mr Heng said that the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has stepped up to help the Ministry of Manpower administer the applications and appeals for Sirs.
He added that during the circuit breaker period, which will last a month from Tuesday, more self-employed people will see a further drop in income.
Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, said the move to enhance Sirs follows feedback from self-employed people who have done some employment work to supplement their incomes or who have bought an executive condominium some years ago.
"Their income is now severely affected by the pandemic, and they still have to support multiple family members' daily needs or medical bills."
He said: "This is the first time that we are providing direct cash support to self-employed persons on such a large scale. They are a very diverse group, with different working hours and work arrangements.
"Some do this as full-time jobs, while others do this part-time, to supplement their income. Some have been contributing CPF (Central Provident Fund), while others have not."
He has also heard from others who view Sirs as overly generous, he said. "Some have asked - why do we allow self-employed persons with annual net trade income of up to $100,000 to qualify?
"As I explained earlier, self-employed persons are a very diverse group. Some are own-account workers, like taxi drivers, who engage in a trade or business but do not employ any paid workers.
"Others are sole proprietors, who own small businesses that have employees and a network of business relations.
"In these extraordinary times, many such self-employed persons are hard hit. I hope that by our helping them, they too can help others in their networks, and their workers, and we keep the spirit of enterprise alive.
"Let me reiterate that those who do not need this and do not qualify should not come forward to appeal for and abuse the support - otherwise, you undermine public confidence and take up unnecessary resources."
Mrs Teo stressed that there is no need for self-employed people aged 37 and above who declared a positive net trade income, as they will be automatically notified and receive their first payout in end May. Others may appeal through NTUC.