More than half of the 200 Singaporeans polled by The Straits Times think a new scheme to give self-employed persons income support provides sufficient help during this period of economic uncertainty.
However, several respondents feel the eligibility criteria could leave them in the cold.
While 53 per cent of respondents thought the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs) was adequate, 29 per cent said it was not enough for the present crisis.
Under the scheme, eligible self-employed people will each get $1,000 a month for nine months to help tide them over the pandemic. About 88,000 self-employed persons will automatically qualify, each receiving three quarterly cash payouts of $3,000 in May, July and October this year, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said last Friday.
Creative audio producer Ng Sze Min, 26, believes the payout will suffice. "I do not expect the Government to give the sum of our usual pay, because that is not realistic. A supplement of $9,000 is good, because we are still eventually responsible for ourselves whether with or without virus. I appreciate any form of help given and have no entitlement expectations."
But the scheme has been criticised by some who do not meet the eligibility criteria. To qualify, one must earn a net trade income of no more than $100,000, live in a property with an annual value of no more than $13,000, and not own two or more properties. One must also have started self-employment on or before March 25 and must not earn any income as an employee.
If they are married, they must not own two or more properties together with their spouse, and the spouse's assessable income must not exceed $70,000.
"The criteria to help aren't helping," said freelance drama instructor Naquiah Ridzuan, 30. "It is only just helping a very specific demographic and doesn't help smaller businesses or freelancers who fall in the middle-income range, who might actually be facing a problem of zero income right now. Calculating their net profit from the previous year does not make any sense at all," she said.
Actor Edward Choy, 40, added: "I won't be able to get anything from the scheme because 10 per cent of my income last year came from teaching at a university. It's deeply problematic."
Multi-disciplinary designer Ng Tian Wen, 33, and his fiancee, who runs a sewing studio, live with his parents in a private apartment that his parents have owned for 20 years. In order to supplement their living expenses, the younger couple took up part-time work, which makes them ineligible for Sirs. Now their part-time work too has been affected by the outbreak. "We have nowhere to lean on," he said.
"I hope MOM will look into the appeal cases with more leniency so as to not end up with many self-employed people either closing their businesses or entering uncertain debts."
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said on Sunday that she hopes to give an update on how the self-employed who do not meet the Sirs criteria can appeal in about a week. She and her ministry colleagues will try their best to address the appeals, she added.
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