As it happens: Heng Swee Keat announces third round of COVID-19 support measures in new 'Solidarity Budget'
SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is set to announce a third round of support measures to help tide businesses, workers and households through the COVID-19 outbreak on Monday (Apr 6).
The new "Solidarity Budget" follows the Unity Budget announced on Feb 18 and the Resilience Budget of Mar 26, and comes as Singapore closes schools and most workplaces for a month for the "first time in our history" to stem the spread of the disease, Mr Heng said in a Facebook post on Sunday.
"The COVID-19 situation has taken a very sharp turn, both globally and locally," said Mr Heng. "Strong measures have to be taken to protect lives, but the economy has taken a hit as a result."
His speech will be carried live on CNA's Facebook page and YouTube channel, and on television.
Government will bring forward the S$300 Care and Support - Cash payout announced earlier and provide an additional S$300, bringing the total to S$600 for every Singaporean adult above the age of 21.
For the majority of Singaporeans who have provided their bank account details to the Government, the Solidarity Payment will be credited directly into their bank accounts by Apr 14. The rest will receive their payment by cheque, to be issued in stages later, starting from Apr 30.
Other cash payouts that earlier announced as part of the Care and Support Package will be brought forward from August to June.
The Self-Employed Person Income Scheme (SIRS) will be extended to automatically include self-employed persons who also earn a small income from employment work.
Current annual value threshold will be raised from up to S$13,000 to up to S$21,000, to include those who live in some condominiums and other private properties.
With these enhancements, a total of about 100,000 self-employed persons will automatically be eligible for SIRS and will receive three payments of S$3,000 starting from May.
Government's risk share of loans made under the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme, Enterprise Financing Scheme - SME Working Capital Loan and Enterprise Financing Scheme - Trade Loan from 80 per cent to 90 per cent for loans initiated from Apr 8, 2020 to Mar 31, 2021.
The rental waiver for industrial, office and agricultural tenants of Government agencies will be increased from 0.5 months to one month.
Stallowners in NEA hawker centres will continue to enjoy three months of rental waivers, while commercial tenants will continue to receive two months of rental waivers.
The Ministry of Law will introduce a Bill on Tuesday to let businesses and individuals defer certain contractual obligations such as paying rent, repaying loans or completing work, for a period.
The Bill will also ensure that property owners pass on the property tax rebate in full to tenants.
To help firms that hire foreign workers on work permits and S-passes, the monthly foreign worker levy due in April will be waived.
As early as Apr 21, employers will also receive a foreign worker levy rebate of S$750 for each work permit or S pass holder.
The Minister for Manpower will share more details, says Mr Heng.
Government will raise its wage subsidy for all firms to 75 per cent of gross monthly wages, for the first S$4,600 of wages paid in April, for each employee.
In the Resilience Budget, the wage subsidy offered ranged from 25 per cent to 75 per cent (aviation and tourism sectors).
The first Jobs Support Scheme payout will be brought forward from May to April. Firms on GIRO and PayNow will begin receiving the first Jobs Support Scheme payout next week. Those not on GIRO or PayNow will receive their payouts by cheque, starting about a week later.
"I expect firms to make use of this JSS support to continue paying your workers and refrain from putting workers on no-pay leave during this period, or worse, retrenching them," says Mr Heng.
Singapore's overall GDP growth will take a further hit amid further restrictions made to fight the pandemic. But we must take these hard decisions, make the difficult adjustments and do all that we can in the next few months, to protect the lives of our people, says Mr Heng.
"We must take short-term pains, to avoid even sharper pain later. Let us all bear these immediate pains with fortitude, and stay strong," he adds.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is due to arrive in Parliament to announce further support measures to help tide businesses, workers and households through the COVID-19 outbreak.
The new Solidarity Budget follows the Unity Budget on Feb 18 and the Resilience Budget on Mar 26, and comes as Singapore prepares to close schools and most workplaces for a month for the "first time in our history", Mr Heng said in a Facebook post on Sunday.
"The COVID-19 situation has taken a very sharp turn, both globally and locally," wrote Mr Heng on Sunday. "Strong measures have to be taken to protect lives, but the economy has taken a hit as a result."