Covid-19 Support Grant extended to December, more eligible for Workfare special payment

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the scheme has disbursed more than $90 million to over 60,000 residents so far. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A grant that helps Singaporeans who are unemployed or have suffered significant income loss due to the pandemic will be extended to December.

The Covid-19 Support Grant, which provides up to $800 a month for three months, had started in May. Applications for the grant were initially due to close after Sept 30.

Announcing the extension in a ministerial statement on Monday (Aug 17), Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the scheme has disbursed more than $90 million to over 60,000 residents so far.

To qualify for the grant, unemployed applicants must demonstrate job search or training efforts.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development will announce details early next month, said Mr Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Finance Minister.

He noted that Singapore's labour market is likely to remain weak beyond this year.

Observers expect to see more business closures and retrenchments in the coming months, with the impact of the circuit breaker showing up in the job market in the second half of the year.

Said Mr Heng: "We are studying how to continue supporting employees and self-employed persons who are most vulnerable.

Another group that Singapore has to look out for is low-wage workers, he added. "Many of them are essential workers who have kept Singapore going during the crisis."

He announced that more workers will be eligible for the Workfare Special Payment, a $3,000 cash payout that will benefit lower-income workers.

Currently, those on the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme for work done in 2019 are eligible for the payout.

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Going forward, those who were not on WIS last year but who have received or will be receiving WIS for work done this year can also qualify.

The WIS, which targets the bottom 20 per cent of the workforce, tops up the salaries of lower-income Singaporeans and helps them save for retirement.

Enhancements to the scheme kicked in this year, with the qualifying income cap raised to $2,300 per month. Among other criteria, those who are 35 years old and above, and who do not own two or more properties can qualify for WIS.

Each eligible individual can only qualify for and receive the $3,000 payment once.

This payment will be given in two equal parts - in July and in October to workers who were eligible for WIS for their work done last year.

Those who received WIS for work done this year will receive the $3,000 payout from October.

Employees' eligibility for WIS and the Workfare Special Payment will be automatically assessed based on the Central Provident Fund contributions made by their employers.

Those who are self-employed will have to declare their income and make their required Medisave contribution by Dec 31, 2021, for work done this year (2020), or by March 31, 2021 for work done last year (2019) to qualify for the Workfare Special Payment.

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