Budget 2022: $500m package for firms to cope with Covid-19 challenges

Eligible small and medium-sized enterprises will get a payout of $1,000 per local employee, capped at $10,000 per firm. ST PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG, THADDEUS ANG, DESMOND WEE, KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Businesses will continue to get targeted help to cope with lingering challenges amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Workers and businesses in sectors that are still struggling with the impact of the pandemic will receive $500 million through a Jobs and Business Support Package.

Eligible small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will get a payout of $1,000 per local employee, capped at $10,000 per firm.

These comprise SMEs in a broad range of sectors such as food and beverage, retail, as well as performing arts and arts education. Operators of sports facilities, cinemas, museums, art galleries, historical sites, indoor playgrounds and other family entertainment centres will also be eligible.

The tourism, hospitality, as well as conventions and exhibitions sectors will also be included.

Firms must have an annual operating revenue of less than $100 million, or employ fewer than 200 employees as at Dec 31 last year, among other criteria.

Local sole proprietors and partnerships in eligible sectors, as well as Singapore Food Agency-licensed hawkers, market and coffeeshop stallholders, who do not hire local employees, will also get the one-off payout.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said the Government expects to see steady recovery this year.

"Singapore will continue to benefit from the pickup in the global economy. More widespread vaccination and booster efforts will support growth in the major economies like the US and euro zone.

"The recovery of our key trading partners in the region will also support our growth," said Mr Wong in his Budget speech on Friday (Feb 18).

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Workers who continue to face income loss due to the pandemic can apply for the Covid-19 Recovery Grant, which has been extended till the end of this year.

The grant provides up to $700 per month for three months for workers who have lost jobs or have been placed on involuntary no-pay leave due to Covid-19.

The Jobs Growth Incentive will also be extended by six months to September, with stepped-down support rates reflecting the improved labour market conditions, said Mr Wong.

"This extension will cover those who face greater difficulty finding jobs, such as mature workers who have not been employed for six months or more, persons with disabilities and ex-offenders," he said.

The scheme, introduced in September 2020 to support hiring during the Covid-19 pandemic, has already been extended twice, with the latest qualifying window originally slated to end next month.

More details about the extension will be announced during the debate on each ministry's spending plans, which will start on the week of Feb 28.

Mr Wong said that targeted assistance will be extended for the aviation sector.

This includes measures to ensure public health and safety at the airport, as well as to preserve core capabilities.

"We must preserve and enhance our status as an international aviation hub," he said, adding that the Transport Ministry will give more details during the debate on its budget.

Businesses will also receive more help through the extension of various loan programmes amid rising inflation that has led to cashflow concerns.

The Temporary Bridging Loan Programme (TBLP) and enhanced Trade Loan Scheme will be extended, with revised parameters, for another six months - from April 1 to Sept 30.

The TBLP was introduced in March 2020 to provide enterprises with access to working capital during the pandemic, while the Enterprise Financing Scheme - Trade Loan supports Singapore-based enterprises' trade financing needs.

The enhanced Enterprise Financing Scheme - Project Loan will also be extended for the domestic construction sector for another year, from April 1 to March 31.

"This is on top of the foreign worker levy rebates that construction firms are receiving currently," said Mr Wong.

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The project loan scheme supports Singapore-based enterprises' overseas project financing needs, which include the financing of working capital, guarantee and fixed assets.

Meanwhile, households will get more help through vouchers and rebates to cope with higher prices.

A $560 million Household Support Package will help Singaporean families manage cost of living pressures, by providing support for daily essentials through utilities rebates, top-ups for children's education and vouchers they can use at heartland shops.

All eligible Housing Board (HDB) households will receive double their regular GST Voucher (GSTV) - U-Save rebates in April, July and October this year under the package.

Children below 21 will also get top-ups of $200 for their education-related expenses.

All Singaporean households will also receive another $100 Community Development Council (CDC) voucher, which they can use at participating heartland shops and hawker stalls.

Read next - Budget 2022 highlights: GST hike, higher income tax for top earners and CDC vouchers for all

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