SINGAPORE - Self-employed persons affected by the Covid-19 pandemic may see an extension of the income relief scheme to help them tide over this period of economic uncertainty.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in Parliament on Friday (Sept 4) that 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 has already said last month that the Government is studying how to help the most vulnerable workers and self-employed persons beyond existing schemes.
She was responding to People's Action Party MP Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) and Worker's Party MP Dennis Tan (Hougang) on whether Sirs 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.
On Friday, Ms Cheng also asked how much money has been given out under Sirs so far, and the reasons for rejecting appeals under the scheme.
Mrs Teo replied that about 190,000 people have received the first two payouts of $3,000 each in May and July, with the last payout due in October.
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 have been given out in the first two payouts, and with the final payout in October, Sirs is expected to cost the Government $2 billion in total, said Mrs Teo.
"This is a significant expansion of an already sizeable programme," she added.
An initial $1.2 billion was set aside for the scheme when it was first announced.
Mrs Teo said the income eligibility for the scheme has covered more than four in five Singaporeans with taxable income, and about nine in 10 of those living in public and private properties they own. 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 has been exercised in the qualifying criteria for Sirs in order to support more self-employed persons.
The remaining applications were rejected because applicants were either earning much higher income, residing in high-value properties or own two or more properties with their spouses, she added.
"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."