COVID-19 SPECIAL

Coronavirus: Website for self-employed people to apply for relief fund stalls on first day

The site has since been down for close to seven hours, as of 4.20pm on April 27, 2020.
The site has since been down for close to seven hours, as of 4.20pm on April 27, 2020.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM NTUC.COM.SG

SINGAPORE - On the first day that self-employed people could submit applications for the government relief scheme, its website was tripped up by the flood of applications.

The site has since been down for close to seven hours, as of 4.20pm on Monday (April 27).

A Facebook post by the NTUC U FSE (Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit) that was updated at 1.34pm said that the unit was experiencing "high traffic due to a large volume of applications".

It encouraged users to try again later for "a better user experience".

An earlier post at around 9.45am on Monday morning informed users that the NTUC U FSE had received feedback of an error message during the application process, and added that its technical team would be looking into it.

The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs), which was first announced on March 26, will disburse $9,000 in cash over nine months to eligible self-employed persons (SEPs), as part of a third Budget to help tide Singaporeans through the Covid-19 pandemic.

As some felt that the criteria was too stringent, the scheme was enhanced to include self-employed people who also earn an income of no more than $2,300 per month from employment work, and those who live in properties with an annual value of up to $21,000.

Around 100,000 self-employed people will automatically qualify for the scheme, and those who miss out can submit their applications and appeals through NTUC.

The website for Sirs applications opened on Monday morning at 9am, and will be open daily from 9am to 9pm.

The NTUC has not set a deadline for applications so far.

In the comments section, many users expressed their frustration about the system errors and glitches encountered, while others on how they had been repeatedly attempting to access the website throughout the day, but to no avail.

 
 
 
 

Some users suggested that NTUC should inform SEPs early on their eligibility to prevent those who auto-qualify from applying.

This could help to reduce the high volume of applications. 

Currently, those who auto-qualify for the scheme will be notified and will receive their first payout in end-May.

Self-employed performer Shana Yap, 27, was anxious that she had been unable to access the website all afternoon, owing to its consistent server lags.

"I was on a Zoom chat with other freelance artists from 1.30pm, and we were collectively trying (to access the server) for an hour.

"One of us managed to get in, but the server lagged thereafter. So we were all really frustrated," she said.

"I'm hoping that NTUC will resolve this soon, especially after a pre-launch trial was tested out among some SEPs over the weekend to ensure that it runs smoothly on Monday," she added.