$1.1b Covid-19 relief package for firms and workers, including up to 60% JSS support for affected sectors

Since July 22, Singapore has reverted to phase two (heightened alert), with tighter measures in place until Aug 18.
Since July 22, Singapore has reverted to phase two (heightened alert), with tighter measures in place until Aug 18.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - A $1.1 billion support package that includes enhanced wage subsidies under the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), and rental relief, more support for drivers of taxis and private-hire vehicles and a new relief fund for market and hawker centre stallholders will be rolled out to cushion businesses and workers from the impact of harsher Covid-19 restrictions.

JSS support will be bumped up to 60 per cent for the hardest-hit sectors such as food and beverage, gyms and performing arts organisations, where the tightened measures require them to suspend many, if not all, of their activities, said the Ministry of Finance (MOF) on Friday (July 23), a day after the measures kicked in.

The package will be funded by reallocated monies arising from one-off underutilised budgets as a result of Covid-19 delaying some projects, as well as funds set aside earlier in the event of extension of support measures.

"In putting together this support package, the Government took into account feedback from workers and businesses, and engaged business and trade association leaders to understand their concerns," said the ministry in its statement, which comes ahead of a debate in Parliament next week on the package.

Since Thursday (July 22), Singapore has reverted to phase two (heightened alert), with tighter measures in place until Aug 18 to curb the worsening Covid-19 situation.

These include cutting the limit on group sizes for social gatherings from five to two, and allowing food and beverage establishments to offer only takeaway and delivery services, among others.

Earlier this month, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said in Parliament that Covid-19 support measures during Singapore's earlier heightened alert period that began in May were expected to cost $1.2 billion.

This would be financed by a reallocation of monies previously budgeted for, he said, in introducing a Supplementary Supply Bill for this reallocation.

Half of the $1.2 billion figure would come from the capitalisation of development expenditure under the recently passed Significant Infrastructure Government Loan Act, while the rest would come from underutilised development expenditure.

Enhanced JSS for affected sectors

The JSS will be enhanced for affected sectors from July 22 to Aug 18.

Wage support will be increased to 60 per cent for sectors where the tightened measures require them to suspend many, if not all, of their activities.

These include food and beverage businesses, gyms, fitness studios, performing arts organisations and arts education centres.

Support will be increased to 40 per cent for sectors that are significantly affected by the restrictions. These include the retail sector, affected personal care services, tourist attractions, licensed hotels, cruise and regional ferry operators, Mice(meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions) organisers, travel agents, museums, art galleries, cinema operators and other family entertainment centres.

JSS support for these sectors will taper to 10 per cent from Aug 19 to 31.

Rental relief for commercial properties

Tenants of government-owned commercial properties will get an additional four-week rental waiver and qualifying tenant-occupiers and owner-occupiers of privately-owned commercial properties will get an additional two-week rental relief cash payout under the Rental Support Scheme.

This will offset rent for the full duration of phase two (heightened alert) for government-owned commercial properties, and for half the duration of heightened measures for privately-owned commercial properties, MOF noted.

More details will be available on the Inland Revenue Authority Singapore website.

Noting that many tenants have said that not all landlords were forthcoming with rental support, MOF said it is looking at how to require rental obligations to be shared fairly between the Government, landlords and qualifying tenants.

The Ministry of Law will announce more details.

Enhanced Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund for taxi, private-hire car drivers

To support taxi and private-hire car drivers, the Government will enhance the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund from July 22 to end-September.

Currently, the fund provides eligible drivers with $10 per vehicle per day for 60 days from July, and $5 per vehicle per day for the next 30 days.

Under this latest enhancement, eligible drivers will get an additional $10 per vehicle per day from July 22 to Aug 31, and an additional $5 per vehicle per day in September.

Support for hawker and market stallholders, other affected workers

A new Market and Hawker Centre Relief Fund will give a one-off $500 cash payout to all individual stallholders of cooked food and market stalls in centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators .

This follows the announcement earlier this month of an additional one month of subsidies for table-cleaning and centralised dishwashing service fees, and one month of rental waivers.

To help other workers affected by the tightened measures, the Government will also make the temporary Covid-19 Recovery Grant available until Aug 31.

It provides a payout of up to $700 for those who were placed on involuntary no-pay leave, and up to $500 for those who lost at least half of their income for at least one month due to tightened safe management measures since May 16.

Existing grant recipients who continue to need help can apply for a second support payout, said the ministry.

Extension of food delivery, e-commerce booster packages

Given the impact of tighter measures on the food and beverage sector, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) will reintroduce the Food Delivery Booster Package to defray part of food delivery costs via food delivery platforms and third-party logistics partners, for transactions made from July 22 to Aug 18.

For the use of food delivery platforms, ESG will fund five percentage points of the commission cost charged. ESG will fund 20 per cent of the delivery cost for food delivery orders through third-party logistics partners.

Grant support will also be given to local retailers to get on-board local e-commerce platforms through the extension of the E-commerce Booster Package, which will now be available till Nov 16.

Retailers get a one-time 80 per cent support on qualifying costs of service fees charged by platforms such as Lazada, Qoo10 and Shopee, capped at $8,000.

More details can be found on the ESG website.