A special payout of $100 each will be made to about 10,000 students who receive regular help from The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF) to help them cope during the downturn caused by the ongoing pandemic.
Families who have been hit hard by job cuts will also be given a hand, with the fund offering assistance for three to six months. This is to ensure that the children's education does not suffer while their parents are looking for work.
These new moves are being made as the fund - initiated by ST journalists on Children's Day in 2000 as part of the newsroom's efforts to reach out to the community - marks its 20th anniversary today.
Announcing the additional assistance, the fund's chairman, Mr Warren Fernandez, said: "We know that these are exceptionally difficult times for many families so we are doing all we can to try to help.
"We are able to do so only because of the support of our generous donors who have stepped up in this time of great need."
The additional help, he added, would come in handy for parents who need to pay for books and other educational needs at the end of the year.
It would also help prevent children from having to go hungry if their parents are affected by the economic downturn, said Mr Fernandez, who is editor of The Straits Times and editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media Group.
The monthly financial aid for primary school pupils is $60 while those in secondary school receive $95. The assistance lasts for up to 24 months. Each post-secondary student gets $120 a month, and is supported for up to 48 months.
Since earlier this year, the ST charity has taken steps to beef up financial aid for students whose families have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, beneficiaries received $50 per month for two months - in May and July - on top of the regular monthly aid that was given out.
About 2,000 students have also been selected by schools and social service agencies for a $500 e-grant from the fund to buy products from Challenger or Harvey Norman to help them with their home-based learning.
In total, the fund has disbursed nearly $11 million this year to help beneficiaries cope with the extraordinary financial difficulties wrought by the pandemic.
Over the past two decades, the fund has given out about $80 million to close to 180,000 students.
Ms Tan Bee Heong, general manager of the STSPMF, said the fund has received tremendous support from the public this year, with more than $10 million in donations.
The amount was the largest donation the fund has received since its inception, she added.
Said Ms Tan: "The school pocket money not only ensures that our beneficiaries do not go hungry in school and are able to focus on their studies, but it also gives their parents a sense of security and assurance that they do not have to worry about their children going hungry in school. Parents are then able to focus on resolving their other challenges."
Since 2017, more than 250 mainstream schools have joined the fund as disbursing partners to give out school pocket money to their students.
HOW TO DONATE
Donation via PayNow
In the reference number field, indicate your NRIC/FIN and contact number for tax exemption.
If sending a cheque, make it out to "SPMF" or "The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund" and send it to: The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, 1000 Toa Payoh North, News Centre, Singapore 318994.
Include the following information on the back of the cheque: For individual donors, indicate name, NRIC/FIN, contact number and address.
For corporate donors, indicate company name, UEN, contact person, contact number and address. All donations are eligible for tax deduction of 2.5 times.
Readers can also donate via the Giving.sg link: www.giving.sg/web/the-straits-times-school-pocket-money-fund
To donate on a monthly basis, visit www.spmf.org.sg/how-to-donate
To reach out to students during the school holidays this year, the STSPMF partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide close to $2 million of a matching grant to support about 45,000 students in May. The grant helped to provide pocket money to students who needed to buy meals during the school holidays.
To adapt to the changing needs of its beneficiaries, Ms Tan said the fund conducts regular reviews of the social service landscape to ensure it stays relevant and responsive to needs on the ground.
Some of the past reviews and adjustments to the fund's policies included adjusting the per capita income requirement and monthly school pocket money when the cost of living increased. In 2013, the fund was expanded to include students in junior colleges, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education.
Said Mr Fernandez: "We are very grateful for the strong support of our donors. Our aim is to ensure we repay their kindness by doing as much as we possibly can for the kids and families who turn to us for help."