SINGAPORE - ComCare cash assistance rates will be raised from Aug 1, in permanent enhancements made to its Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance (SMTA) and Long-Term Assistance (LTA) schemes.
This move by the Ministry of Social and Family Development is part of the support measures announced by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday (June 21) to help households and businesses tackle economic challenges, such as higher global inflation.
A one-person household on ComCare LTA will receive higher cash assistance of $640 per month, versus the current $600.
A two-person household will get $1,080 per month, up from $1,000.
A three-person household will receive $1,510, up from $1,400, while a four-person household will get $1,930, up from $1,750.
MSF said the increase will benefit around 4,000 ComCare LTA households, most of whom are elderly with little or no income and family support.
The cash assistance is part of a support package that can include medical care at public healthcare institutions, social services and community support.
Those who apply for ComCare SMTA or apply to renew their existing SMTA can also expect to receive higher cash aid and support for utility expenses.
The amount will depend on the household's composition, needs and income.
The increase will apply automatically to ComCare LTA recipients and for new or renewed applications for SMTA from Aug 1.
The enhancements follow temporary measures announced in April to help low-income households cope with increases in cost of living arising from global supply chain disruptions and the Ukraine war.
Those temporary measures remain in place until Sept 30 and will enable new ComCare SMTA beneficiaries to receive at least six months of assistance.
Current beneficiaries who renew their applications will get at least three additional months of assistance.
ComCare LTA recipient Yuen Tuck Meng said he has been struggling with price increases as he maintains his health.
The 67-year-old has heart problems, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, on top of mental health troubles such as depression and anxiety. He retired over 20 years ago after being declared medically unfit to work, and lives alone in a two-room rental flat.
"Everything is so expensive now, even the food at the coffee shop and groceries. I'm worried and when I'm buying food or anything I must think twice. But I can't just eat maggi mee too," he said.
The enhanced assistance will help support his expenses on food, and health and nutritional supplements.
Mr Mohd Bahazli Zainudin, 59, has lived with his wife and three children in a two-room rental flat for the past 17 years. His eldest son, 31, has Down Syndrome and requires full-time care by his wife.
The family has been receiving ComCare SMTA since June 2020. He said that the additional support announced on Tuesday will help him make ends meet.
"Every month, we just eat whatever we can. Usually we run out of cash right as the month ends, so having a little bit more each month would help cushion our expenses, said Mr Bahazli, who has been unemployed since November last year due to medical reasons.
Apart from enhanced ComCare assistance, there will be an additional payout of up to $300 for Goods and Services Tax Voucher-Cash recipients in August. This will benefit about 1.5 million Singaporeans.
Every Singaporean household will receive $100 by September to help offset utility bills.
The Singapore Allowance and monthly pension ceiling for pensioners who draw lower pensions will be enhanced by $30 each, to $350 and $1,280 respectively.
The Singapore Allowance is an additional payment introduced in 1974 to help pensioners who draw lower pensions.
Since its introduction, it has been increased 14 times - the last time in 2019 - taking into account factors such as inflationary pressures.
Addressing concerns about rising food prices, Mr Wong said the key lever the Government uses to make sure food remains affordable is to ensure all housing estates have affordable options, such as hawker centres and coffee shops run by social enterprises such as NTUC Foodfare.
He was replying to a question on recent multimillion-dollar coffee shop sales that made headlines and anxiety on the ground that they would lead to higher rents and more expensive meals.
“(The availability of cheaper options) will also put some competitive pressure in the market when it comes to some of these commercial transactions,” he added.
AMKFSC Community Services divisional director Terence Yow said: "The increased quantum of assistance rendered to lower-income individuals not only helps them to defray the increased cost of living, but also provides relief to the psychological burden for individuals and families affected by inflation."
He added that the new support measures will hopefully encourage the people and private sectors to chip in to support lower income and vulnerable groups.
He said it is important to continue to monitor the dynamic global situation and its impact on the rising prices, so that assistance can be reviewed in a timely manner to help lower-income families mitigate the impact of the rising cost of living.