SINGAPORE - Local employees in the tourism sector will have up to 75 per cent of their salaries paid by government subsidies for nine months, as part of a second wave of measures aimed at helping firms and workers cope with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
The wage relief is part of the enhancements to the Jobs Support Scheme that was introduced in the Budget in February.
Instead of the earlier announced 8 per cent, the Government will now offset 25 per cent of wages for every local worker in employment, while those in the harder-hit sectors will receive more support, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Half of wages for local workers in the food services sector will be co-funded, while those in the tourism and aviation sectors will receive 75 per cent.
The monthly qualifying wage ceiling will be raised from $3,600 to the median wage of $4,600, while the scheme will also be extended to cover nine months instead of three so that employers receive three tranches of payouts in May, July and October.
Those eligible for the 75 per cent relief include licensed hotels, travel agents, gated tourist attractions, cruise lines, cruise terminal operators and purpose-built Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) venue operators.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Mr Heng noted that public health measures in Singapore and around the world aimed at containing the pandemic have caused severe economic disruptions and uncertainties.
The tourism and aviation sectors have been hardest hit, as international visitor arrivals to Singapore "have nearly ground to a halt", he said.
Thus, they will receive additional targeted support as part of a $48 billion Resilience Budget, unveiled on Thursday. The amount is more than seven times the $6.4 billion pledged in February's Budget to aid businesses, households and front-line agencies.
Mr Heng said that $90 million will be set aside to help the tourism industry "rebound strongly, when the time is right".
He also announced that qualifying commercial properties which have been more severely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, including hotels, serviced apartments, tourist attractions, shops and eateries, will not have to pay any property tax this year. This will be in lieu of the 15 to 30 per cent property tax rebates announced last month.
Mr Heng urged landlords to fully pass on the savings to tenants by reducing rentals to ease their cash flow and cost pressures.
"Many businesses have pointed out that it will be a lose-lose situation if landlords do not support their tenants. After all, if tenants fail, the properties will be empty. So my message to landlords is: do your part, chip in, and give additional help to tenants who are more badly hit," he said.
A number of tourism grants, such as the Kickstart Fund and Business Improvement Fund, have also been beefed up with more support for qualifying costs.
Beyond targeted measures, businesses and workers in the tourism sector will also be able to tap other schemes in the supplementary budget.
These include enhanced financing and training programmes and a relief scheme that will provide eligible self-employed workers with $1,000 a month for nine months.
Those who are struggling with legal obligations that have arisen from the Covid-19 outbreak, such as deposits for large gatherings that now cannot go ahead, may also receive some relief.
Law Minister K. Shanmugam will present a set of measures to tackle these issues at the next parliamentary sitting, said Mr Heng.
The Singapore Tourism Board last month projected that visitor arrivals for the year would decline by between 25 and 30 per cent, though this number is expected to be revised upward amid a worsening global situation and a ban on all short-term visitors to the Republic put in place earlier this week.