Covid-19 Support Grant extended; more eligible for $3,000 Workfare payout

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the scheme has disbursed more than $90 million to over 60,000 residents so far.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the scheme has disbursed more than $90 million to over 60,000 residents so far.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

A grant that helps Singapore residents who have lost their jobs or suffered significant income loss due to the pandemic will be extended till December.

Applications for the Covid-19 Support Grant, which provides up to $800 a month for three months, opened in May and were initially due to close after Sept 30.

Announcing the extension in a ministerial statement yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the scheme has disbursed more than $90 million to over 60,000 residents so far.

To qualify for the grant, unemployed applicants must demonstrate job search or training efforts, among other things.

Existing recipients of the grant can also apply to renew their support for another three months, if they remain eligible.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development will announce details early next month, said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister.

He noted that Singapore's labour market is likely to remain weak beyond this year. Observers have said that more retrenchments are expected in the coming months.

Said Mr Heng: "We are studying how to continue supporting employees and self-employed persons who are most vulnerable."

Another group that Singapore has to look out for is low-wage workers, he added. He announced that more workers will be eligible for the Workfare Special Payment, a $3,000 cash payout that will benefit lower-income workers.

Currently, those on the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme for work done last year are eligible for the payout. Going forward, those who were not on WIS last year but who have received or will be receiving WIS for work done this year, can also qualify.

The WIS tops up the salaries of lower-income Singaporeans. Enhancements to the scheme kicked in this year, with the qualifying income cap raised to $2,300 per month. Among other criteria, those aged 35 and above can qualify for WIS. Each eligible individual can only qualify for and receive the $3,000 payment once.

 
 
 

This payment will be given in two equal parts - last month and in October - to workers who were eligible for WIS for their work done last year.

Those who received WIS for work done this year will receive the $3,000 payout from October.

Employees' eligibility for WIS and the Workfare Special Payment will be automatically assessed based on Central Provident Fund contributions made by their employers.

Those who are self-employed will have to declare their income and make their required Medisave contribution by Dec 31 next year for work done this year, or by March 31 next year for work done last year.

Labour MP Mohd Fahmi Aliman welcomed the revised criteria to the Workfare Special Payment, which will benefit workers who are earning less now or who have moved into lower-paying jobs.

 
 
 

National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser cheered the extension of the Covid-19 Support Grant, but said it is "at best, a stop-gap measure".

"If we agree that the approach of continually dishing out money is not sustainable, then it boils down to partnering businesses to create jobs," he said.

Dr Ong Qiyan, a deputy director at NUS' Social Service Research Centre, said it is critical to ensure that those who have reduced work hours or income are able to attend training programmes which can improve their job prospects.

They may face barriers in doing so, for example, if they lack employer support, she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2020, with the headline 'Covid-19 Support Grant extended; more eligible for $3,000 Workfare payout'. Print Edition | Subscribe