$640m in support measures for sectors hit by extension of Covid-19 rules

The package of support measures will be funded from higher-than-expected revenues collected to date. PHOTOS: ST FILE, ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - A $640 million package of support measures will be extended to individuals and businesses affected by the one-month extension of tighter measures under the stabilisation phase.

These sectors include food and beverage (F&B), retail, cinemas, museums, art galleries, historical sites, family entertainment, tourism, gyms and fitness studios, and performing arts and arts education.

In a statement on Wednesday (Oct 20), the Health Ministry said the Government will offer 25 per cent wage support under the extended Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) for sectors that are significantly affected by the continuing tightened measures, which will remain in place at least until Nov 21.

There will also be a half-month rental waiver given to qualifying tenants of government-owned commercial properties, as well as cooked food and market stallholders in food centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators.

Qualifying tenant-occupiers and owner-occupiers of privately owned commercial properties will also be given a half-month rental relief cash payout under the Rental Support Scheme (RSS).

More details on the RSS will be made available on the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) website.

The Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund will also be extended to support taxi and private-hire car drivers. They will receive a $10 payout per vehicle per day in November, and a $5 payout per vehicle per day in December.

Currently, the fund provides drivers with $10 per vehicle per day in October and $5 per vehicle per day in November.

The November payout will be increased to $10 per vehicle per day. The fund will also be extended and will provide drivers a $5 payout per vehicle per day in December.

The extension of the fund will cost an estimated $16 million and is expected to benefit some 50,000 drivers, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA). This brings the total amount set aside by the Government for the taxi and private-hire car sectors to about $520 million since February last year.

Drivers do not need to apply to receive the payouts. Those who are already receiving payouts will automatically receive the extended payouts from their operators, the LTA said.

"Taxi main hirers will continue to receive payouts in the form of rental rebates, while private-hire car drivers will receive the payouts through their e-wallets or directly into their bank accounts," the authority added.

"LTA will work with the taxi and private hire car operators to implement the latest Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund payouts, and operators will inform drivers of disbursement details in due course."

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Drivers who do not qualify for the fund, including taxi relief drivers, may apply for the Ministry of Social and Family Development's Covid-19 Recovery Grant (CRG) if they meet the eligibility criteria, the LTA added. Drivers will not be eligible for the CRG if they are receiving payouts under the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund.

The package of support measures will be funded from higher-than-expected revenues collected to date, and there will be no further draw on Singapore's past reserves, MOH said.

Speaking during a press conference by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 here, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong sought the public's understanding on the need to extend the stabilisation phase, given that hospital isolation beds are still at close-to-full occupancy.

About two-thirds of Singapore's intensive care unit (ICU) beds in public hospitals are also currently occupied.

"We know this is a difficult time for everyone in many ways. I would say this is probably the most difficult phase in our journey through Covid-19 so far," said Mr Wong, who co-chairs the task force.

He said the stabilisation phase and tightened measures will not last indefinitely, and that the wave of infections will peak at some point.

With more people getting exposed to the virus, and more getting booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine in the coming weeks, Singapore will have better immunity, he said.

"Let's continue to have faith that the situation will get better. In the meantime, (we) seek everyone's understanding of why we need the measures that we have today."

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