NTUC to administer Covid-19 relief scheme for the self-employed

NTUC has been in talks with business leaders on how they can retain their workers despite suffering huge losses. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Self-employed workers or freelancers are to submit applications or appeals to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) for a scheme to help those who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The NTUC will be helping the Ministry of Manpower administer the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs), said NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng in Parliament on Monday (April 6).

The scheme will disburse $9,000 in cash over nine months to eligible self-employed people. On Monday, it was extended to automatically include self-employed persons who also earn a small income from employment work, as well as those who live in properties with an annual value of up to $21,000, up from the threshold of $13,000 previously.

Speaking in response to Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat's delivery of a third package to support people and businesses amid the downturn, Mr Ng said he has received feedback from workers and freelancers that they would like to see an increase in the speed of government assistance.

Mr Ng said that NTUC will try its best to push for inclusion and make the Sirs process as straightforward as possible. "I know that many freelancers and self-employed are going through hard times and as such we in NTUC and the labour movement will work to facilitate appeals starting no later than April 20."

He described how he has seen many people queuing up for the Temporary Relief Fund over the last few days, with 3,000 in his division alone. "For many, it's the first time they are applying for aid, not something they ever thought they would have to do.

"They tell me they are more than willing to work to support their families. But now many of them have little choice. And the worry in their voices was frankly heartbreaking."

He also hopes more people will apply to the $25 million NTUC Care Fund for Covid-19, which gives existing members $100 to $300 and new members $50 to $200, depending on criteria.

He added that NTUC has been in talks with business leaders on how they can retain their workers despite suffering huge losses.

For example, in the hard-hit aviation and aerospace sectors, cabin crew from Singapore Airlines are being trained and redeployed as SG Care and Safe Distancing Ambassadors, filling a manpower gap at hospitals and helping to ensure people do not stand too close to each other in public. Workers in these sectors are also being sent for training to prepare them for the eventual upturn.

He added: "NTUC has been engaging chief executives to understand their concerns and see how we can assist, whether it is about cutting costs to save jobs, accessing Government assistance or job matching their excess workers through our Job Security Council.

"I hope other employers do their part too, because their actions will greatly impact how Singapore emerges from this crisis. Companies must keep their workers employed and make use of the support to send workers for training."

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