Coronavirus pandemic: Solidarity Budget

$60b help to fight Covid-19

Tee Zhuo summarises how the $60 billion is being used to help families, workers and businesses, with the latest sum targeted at managing the fallout from safe distancing measures to curb virus transmission

Families

$6.4 billion: First came what was termed the Unity Budget on Feb 18, where this amount was set aside to combat Covid-19

$48.4 billion: Then came the supplementary Resilience Budget on March 26, where a further sum was added to the war chest

$5.1 billion: Yesterday, DPM Heng Swee Keat unveiled the Solidarity Budget, to enhance the help measures

FAMILIES

CASH UPFRONT

• Under the Solidarity Budget, all Singaporeans aged 21 and above this year will get a one-off Solidarity Payment of $600. Most will receive it by April 14 in their bank accounts, and the rest will get it by cheque in stages from April 30.

• $300 of this $600 Solidarity Payment comes from part of the earlier announced Care and Support package.

• In the Unity Budget, all Singaporeans were to get between $100 and $300, depending on their incomes with those earning less getting more. In the Resilience Budget, the amounts were raised to between $300 and $900.

• Those who earn less and thus qualify for the higher tiers will get a further $300 or $600 in June.

• In addition, parents with at least one Singaporean child aged 20 and below this year each get an additional $300 in cash.

• Eligible Singaporeans aged 21 and above get $300 in grocery vouchers for this year. They will get another $100 next year.

• All Singaporeans aged 50 and above this year will get a PAssion Card top-up of $100.

RELIEF FROM GOVERNMENT FEES, LOANS

• There will be no increases on fees and charges for all government services for a year, from April 1.

• University and polytechnic government loan repayment and interest charges have been suspended for a year from June 1.

• Late payment charges on Housing Board mortgage arrears have been suspended for three months.

HELP FOR COMMUNITY, NEEDY

• Among other things, $145 million has been set aside to help the needy through social service offices and community centres, including more flexibility for ComCare applications.

Workers and jobs

HELP WITH WAGES

• The Jobs Support Scheme was introduced in the Unity Budget. It is meant to help companies retain local workers through the Government subsidising a chunk of the wages of more than 1.9 million such workers.

• Originally, the Government was going to pay 8 per cent of the first $3,600 of a worker's monthly wage.

• In the Resilience Budget, this was raised to 25 per cent of the first $4,600 of the worker's wage. More help went to sectors worse hit by the pandemic - those in food services will get 50 per cent help in wages. The aviation and tourism sectors will have 75 per cent of wages supported.

• Under yesterday's Solidarity Budget, the Government will now subsidise 75 per cent of the first $4,600 of monthly wages for all local workers for this month. Normal payout levels will revert after this month.

• Payouts were supposed to be in May, July and October. The first payout has been brought forward to this month.

HELP FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED

• The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme was introduced during the Resilience Budget to help the self-employed tide over the pandemic through three quarterly cash payouts of $3,000, or a total of $9,000.

• Following feedback, it was expanded yesterday to include the self-employed who also earn a small income from employment, capped at $2,300 per month.

• The scheme will now also cover those living in properties with an annual value of up to $21,000, up from $13,000 before.

• About 100,000 people - up from 88,000 - will now get the payouts next month, in July and in October.

• Training and reskilling have been key words of the budgets. The Government is pumping $48 million into a training support scheme for the self-employed, upping training allowances, and allowing the use of SkillsFuture credits for this.

HELP FOR THE LOWER-INCOME

• This group gets a special Workfare payment of $3,000 each, in cash. Previously, they received a one-off payment amounting to 20 per cent of their 2019 payout, with a $100 minimum.

• Union members facing financial distress can claim a one-off payment of up to $300 under the $25 million NTUC Care Fund (Covid-19).

• Low-and middle-income workers who lose their jobs due to Covid-19 get cash grants of $800 a month for three months, administered by social service offices from next month to September.

JOB CREATION

• About 10,000 new jobs will be created over the next year, including jobs for emerging areas in the public sector, long-term roles in essential services and short-term jobs to handle the Covid-19 crisis. There will also be private-sector openings.

Businesses

FOREIGN WORKER RELIEF

• The foreign worker levy, paid monthly, will be waived for this month, it was announced in the Solidarity Budget.

• A levy rebate of $750 will also be granted to firms this month for each work permit or S Pass holder.

PROPERTY TAX RELIEF

• Restaurants, shops, hotels, serviced apartments and tourist attractions, among others, will pay no property tax for this year.

• Businesses in other non-residential properties, such as offices or industrial properties, will get a 30 per cent property tax rebate for this year.

• A Bill to be introduced today will make sure property owners pass on the property tax rebate in full to tenants.

INCOME TAX RELIEF

• Income tax payments will be deferred for three months for firms and self-employed persons, with no application required.

RENT WAIVERS

• The rental waiver for industrial, office and agricultural tenants of government agencies will be raised to a month, up from the half-month rental waiver announced previously.

• Stallholders in hawker centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators will enjoy three months of rental waiver - up from one month previously - while commercial tenants will continue to get two months of rental waivers.

• The Bill to be introduced today will also let businesses and individuals defer certain contractual obligations, such as rent, repaying loans or completing work, for some time.

HELP WITH LOANS

• Mr Heng previously said $20 billion of loan capital will be given to help firms and catalyse private-sector loan capital.

• The maximum supported loan under the temporary bridging loan programme (TBLP), which addresses cash flow issues in the tourism sector, will be increased to $5 million, from $1 million, and will be expanded to all sectors.

• The quantum for trade loans under the Enterprise Financing Scheme (EFS) will double to $10 million. A working capital loan for small and medium-sized enterprises under the EFS will have the maximum quantum raised from $600,000 to $1 million.

• In addition to the above, the Government will now increase its share of risk in loans taken under the above schemes to 90 per cent, up from 80 per cent, for loans initiated from April 8 this year to March 31 next year.

• Loan insurance premiums under the Loan Insurance Scheme will be subsidised to 80 per cent, up from 50 per cent. Loan payments for this loan and the TBLP can be deferred on request, subject to assessment by participating financial institutions.

SUPPORT FOR SPECIFIC SECTORS

• The Government will continue to offset 75 per cent of the first $4,600 in monthly wages in the tourism and aviation sectors, and 50 per cent in the food services sector, after the share reverts to 25 per cent for local workers in other sectors after this month.

• The aviation sector gets $350 million in help, with measures such as rebates on landing and parking fees, and rental relief for airlines and the cargo industry.

• The tourism sector will get $90 million to ensure it rebounds from the crisis when the time is right.

• The arts and culture sector will get $55 million to support jobs and training, including for digitalisation and retaining jobs.

LAND TRANSPORT

• The point-to-point support package, which helps relieve the shortfall in earnings for taxi and private-hire car drivers, will get $95 million.

• Eligible taxi hirers and private-hire car drivers will continue to get a special relief payment of $300 per vehicle a month till the end of September.

• Private bus owners will get a one-year road tax rebate and a six-month waiver of parking charges at government-managed parking facilities. This will cost $23 million.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2020, with the headline $60b help to fight Covid-19. Subscribe