Coronavirus: 32 companies return $35 million of Jobs Support Scheme payouts; others are donating the funds

Meanwhile, 29 companies that received last month’s payout have also decided to decline future payouts. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Some companies have decided to return the Government's Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) payments and decline future payouts, while others are donating the money to charity, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Sunday (May 10) evening.

A total of 32 companies have returned the payout, and will not take future payouts. Meanwhile, 29 companies that received last month's payout have also decided to decline future payouts, said the Finance Ministry in a separate statement.

"We have received $35 million, which would be used for future payouts," it said.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, added in a Facebook post: "I am very encouraged by their sense of responsibility and shared community. I hope their exemplary action will inspire other companies that are doing well to consider doing the same."

A total of $7 billion, which will go to more than 140,000 employers, has been set aside under the scheme to help cover the wages of over 1.9 million local employees here.

The wage subsidies are intended to save jobs amid enhanced safe distancing measures, effectively requiring most workers to telecommute and those in non-essential services to temporarily cease operations to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

One company which has decide to give up its JSS payout is German pharmaceutical group Boehringer Ingelheim. It will instead donate $500,000 to five causes that its employees voted for. These are the Migrant Workers' Assistance Fund, Sayang Sayang Fund, Invictus Fund, Singapore Red Cross and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The Invictus Fund, which channels private donations to social service agencies and was set up in April, has raised over $2 million in just over a month. The Sayang Sayang Fund was started by the Community Foundation of Singapore, and has raised nearly $1 million on donations portal to date.

The money that Boehringer Ingelheim is donating makes up the majority of its JSS payout, said Mr Gerrard McKenna, country managing director and head of human pharma for the South-east Asia and South Korea regional operating unit.

"At this point in time, in contrast to other industries, like aviation and tourism, our company in Singapore has not been financially adversely affected," Mr McKenna said. "We only just reached out to all beneficiaries last week, and all responses have been positive. We are genuinely excited to support them and the causes they are advocating for."

He added that the company plans to do the same for future JSS payouts, provided its business in Singapore and the region continues to remain healthy.

Another company that has decided to donate its payout is DSM, which makes nutritional products. Its business model has proven to be "relatively resilient" despite the crisis, said Asia-Pacific president Pieter Nuboer.

"At the same time, many businesses and groups in society are in dire need," he added. "Regarding any government support coming our way, we are therefore very clear about our moral deliverable. It is to redirect these funds to those most in need."

Mr Heng thanked companies for their commitment, contributions and confidence in Singapore as the country tackles the Covid-19 outbreak.

"By standing together and helping one another, we can overcome this crisis and emerge stronger," he said. "This is the spirit of our Singapore Together movement."

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