Parliament

Ministries to study extending income relief for self-employed persons

The manpower ministry will study the possibility of extending the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs) with the Ministry of Finance.
The manpower ministry will study the possibility of extending the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs) with the Ministry of Finance.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Self-employed persons affected by the Covid-19 pandemic may see an extension of the income relief scheme to tide them over this period of economic uncertainty.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo told Parliament yesterday her ministry will study the possibility of extending the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs) with the Ministry of Finance.

She noted that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said last month that the Government is studying how to help the most vulnerable workers and self-employed persons beyond existing schemes.

Mrs Teo was responding to People's Action Party MP Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) and Workers' Party MP Dennis Tan (Hougang) on whether the scheme will be extended in the light of the poor economic outlook.

Mr Tan said with the expanded Covid-19 Support Grant, he has received feedback that Sirs could be extended on at least a lower payout level, as many self-employed persons still have financial difficulties.

The scheme, which was announced by DPM Heng in the Resilience Budget in March, provides eligible self-employed persons with $9,000 in cash over nine months.

Yesterday, Ms Cheng asked how much money had been given out under Sirs so far, and the reasons for rejecting appeals under the scheme.

Mrs Teo said about 190,000 people received the first two payouts of $3,000 each in May and July, with the last payout due next month.

Of this number, 100,000 qualified automatically for the scheme, while the remaining 90,000 qualified through application.

She added that the profile of Sirs recipients mirrors the profile of self-employed persons in Singapore, with a large number being taxi drivers, and others being private-hire drivers and hawkers.

So far, more than $1.1 billion has been given out, in the first two payouts, and with the final payout next month, Sirs is expected to cost the Government $2 billion in total, said Mrs Teo. An initial $1.2 billion was set aside for the scheme when it was first announced.

 
 
 

Mrs Teo said more than four in five Singaporeans with taxable income, and about nine in 10 of those living in public and private properties they own are eligible for the scheme. The spouse's income is also considered in an applicant's eligibility.

Of the total applications received, about two in three have been approved, said Mrs Teo, adding that flexibility was exercised in the qualifying criteria in order to support more self-employed persons.

The remaining applications were rejected because applicants were either earning much higher income, or are residents in high-value properties or owned two or more properties with their spouses.

"As Sirs was intended to support (self-employed persons), persons who were previously unemployed or had regular employment were redirected to the Covid-19 Support Grant," said Mrs Teo.

"Where there were other areas of need, we have referred unsuccessful applicants to the appropriate agencies for follow-up assistance."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2020, with the headline 'Ministries to study extending income relief for self-employed persons'. Print Edition | Subscribe