Singapore Budget 2020: $350m to support social service agencies and build giving culture; wage offsets for hiring those with disabilities

A new scheme will be introduced to help firms that employ those with disabilities. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - To support and encourage more people to donate to social service agencies, the Government and Singapore Totalisator Board (Tote Board) will set aside $150 million in total to match donations dollar for dollar.

This sum, and another $200 million from the Government and the Tote Board, will be used to help the agencies transform to better help families and those in need.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (Feb 18) announced this and a slew of other moves to top up funds meant to assist low-income Singaporeans and the elderly.

A new scheme will also be introduced to help firms that employ those with disabilities, he added.

The $350 million to be set aside will be channelled to a Community Capability Trust, which will be helmed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and National Council of Social Service.

The sum comprises $150 million the Government puts into the trust this year, and a $50 million contribution from the Tote Board, also in 2020.

Over the next 10 years, donations to the Community Chest will also be matched dollar for dollar by the Government, up to $100 million.

The Tote Board will also match donations to the Community Chest dollar for dollar, up to $50 million, but until 2024.

Mr Heng said that the trust will provide a pool of funds that social service agencies can tap to transform themselves for the future.

He added that he hopes the funds would help them strengthen their organisational capabilities, become more productive and enhance their service infrastructure.

"There is much value to be gained when a community comes together in support of a cause," said Mr Heng.

He added that everyone can play a part to build an inclusive society "from their hearts, in ways big and small".

Mr Heng also announced a new Enabling Employment Credit scheme which will provide wage offsets to firms that employ those with disabilities.

It will replace the existing Special Employment Credit and Additional Special Employment Credit schemes, which will expire on Dec 31, 2020.

These schemes currently provide wage offsets for employers hiring Singaporeans with disabilities earning below $4,000 a month.

In 2018, more than 5,700 employers hiring over 8,600 Singaporeans with disabilities benefited from the Special Employment Credit.

The new Enabling Employment Credit scheme will be available for five years from 2021 to 2025, at a cost of about $31 million each year.

It will be reviewed after two years to ensure that the scheme continues to remain helpful.

More details will be announced by the Ministry of Manpower in the coming weeks when MPs debate the budget of each ministry.

The Government will also be topping up various public funds that help the elderly and lower-income individuals, said Mr Heng.

The ElderCare Fund, which provides operating subsidies to intermediate and long-term care providers, such as nursing homes run by volunteer welfare organisations, will receive $750 million.

A $500 million top-up will be added to the ComCare Fund, which provides financial assistance to low-income Singaporeans.

MediFund will receive a $200 million top-up to continue providing a safety net to those who have financial difficulties paying medical bills.

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