In these times of the novel coronavirus, I must give it to to the government for stepping up their game in proving swift and decisive measures in such a short amount of time. Following PM Lee’s address on 3rd April 2020, our Finance Minister, Heng Swee Keat just announced a third round of financial support measures to help Singaporean households and businesses affected by COVID-19.
Named the Solidarity Budget, here are four main takeaways from Minister Heng’s address to parliament.
In the previous Resilience Budget announcement (18 February 2020), Singaporeans aged 21 and above would be given a cash payout of S$300. With the current update from the Solidarity Budget, the cash payout will now be doubled to S$600 with the cash being credited to bank accounts as soon as 14 April 2020 or by cheque from 30 April 2020.
This cash payout has increased significantly, from the initially announced Unity Budget (February 2020) of S$100-$300.
Each parent will also receive S$300 if they have at least one child aged 20 years and below. And a direct top-up of S$100 will be made for PAssion cardholders for Singaporeans aged 50 years and above.
The Self-Employed Person Income Scheme (SIRS) will now extend to automatically include self-employed persons who also earn a small income from employment work. This new measure will also increase the annual value threshold from S$13,000 to S$21,000, with the intentions to include those who live in condominiums and private properties.
A total of 100,000 persons will now be automatically eligible for SIRS and will receive three payouts of S$3000, starting from May 2020.
In the previous Resilience Budget, it was announced that self-employed persons will receive financial support in the form of personal income tax deferment of up to three months if they were to file by 18 April 2020, for Year of Assessment 2020.
To help business recover quickly after the circuit breakers, the government has pledged to raise its wage subsidies for gross monthly wages from 25% to 75% for the first S$4,600 of wages paid in April for each employee.
The first Job Support Scheme will be brought forward from May to April, with firms on PayNow and Giro to receive the payout as soon as next week. This is to prevent businesses from making their employees go on no-pay leave or be forced to retrench them.
Foreign worker levies are to be waived for the month of April 2020 as well. For business that have employees on S-Pass or work permits, on top of April’s levy being waived, they will receive a rebate of S$750 for each work permit or S-Pass holder as soon as 21 April 2020.
A bill to be introduced by the Ministry of Law tomorrow will be passed to allow businesses and individuals to defer certain contractual obligations such as the payment of rent, completion of work and repayment of loans for a period of time.
Additionally, the Bill will ensure that property owners will pass on the property tax rebate in full to their tenants.
Workers of governmental agencies will also receive a rental waiver of 0.5 months to one month. This rental waiver is for those who work in the industrial, office and agricultural sectors of Government agencies.
NEA will continue to provide three months rental waiver for stall owners in their hawker centres and commercial tenants will continue to receive two months of rental waivers.
SMEs will receive enhanced financial support via the increase of government risk share loans from 80% to 90% for loans initiated from 8 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.
For the support of emotional well being and mental health throughout these trying times, a 24/7 hotline has been established as well. Coined the Ministry for Social and Family Development (MSF) National CARE Hotline, Singaporeans can turn to professionals when they are in need of help, as of reporting, the number of the hotline has yet to be made available.
To close off with Minister Heng’s words, these circumstances are unprecedented. During these extraordinary times, it is up to us Singaporean to stay united, resident and in solidarity in these times of COVID-19. With the foresight and discipline of the founding generation, I am thankful that the financial burden of these measures will not be passed on to future generations.
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