SINGAPORE: Taxi and private-hire car drivers whose incomes have been affected by heightened COVID-19 restrictions will receive an additional S$27 million from the Government through the COVID-19 driver relief fund until the end of June this year.
This is on top of the S$188 million already committed for payments through the fund from January to June this year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Friday (May 21).
“In total, drivers will receive S$25 per vehicle per day, up from the existing S$15 per vehicle per day. This works out to be $750 per vehicle per month until the end of June,” said the LTA, adding it will work with operators to implement the enhanced COVID-19 driver relief fund by the end of this month.
All taxi and private-hire drivers eligible for the relief fund will receive the top-up through their operators, without the need to make an application.
The move comes after consulting the National Taxi Association and National Private Hire Vehicles Association, as well as taxi and private-hire operators, the LTA said.
“We recognise that taxi and private-hire car drivers need urgent targeted assistance to tide through this period so that they can continue providing sustainable taxi and private-hire car services for Singapore commuters,” it added.
The LTA noted ridership had “declined significantly” Singapore’s Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period, with schools shifting to full home-based learning and working from home becoming the default.
Singapore last week announced tighter COVID-19 measures under Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) after a spike in COVID-19 community cases. The measures, which came into effect on May 16 and run until Jun 13, include reducing the size of group gatherings to two and suspending dining-in at food and beverage outlets.
“We recognise that our drivers need assistance that is targeted on an urgent basis to help them through this challenging period, and this is also to ensure that our drivers can continue to provide essential taxi and (private-hire car) services for our commuters,” said Minister for Transport S Iswaran on Friday.
Speaking to the media via video-conferencing, Mr Iswaran - who assumed the role of Transport Minister on May 15 - said LTA figures showed ridership for taxis and private-hire cars had fallen to about 55 per cent of what it was before COVID-19 struck.
This is down from the 80 per cent of pre-pandemic ridership the two modes were seeing before the current restrictions came into place on Sunday, he said.
He noted some 16,000 cabbies and about 40,000 private-hire drivers stand to benefit from the additional support.
With drivers likely to be taking on more delivery jobs given the current ridership decline, Mr Iswaran said they would also benefit from theextended grace period at Housing Board and Urban Redevelopment Authority carparks announced on Friday.
Taxi operators have committed about S$28 million in additional taxi rental discounts, LTA said.
It pointed to how ComfortDelgro had earlier announced a 50 per cent rental waiver for its drivers, while other taxi firms have committed to provide additional rental discounts of at least S$5 per day, on top of their current commitment of S$10 per day.
In a statement to the media, Grab said it is providing rebates to eligible drivers and rental waivers for qualifying drivers under GrabRentals, its vehicle rentals arm.
“Grab is committed to supporting our driver-partners during this challenging period and will be sharing more details on our support programme very soon,” said a spokesperson for the ride-hailing firm.
Gojek will also be helping its drivers through these times.
“We have adjusted our incentive and benefit schemes to enable our driver-partners to more realistically achieve their targets and continue to access competitive earnings and benefits while driving on our platform,” said Gojek Singapore general manager Lien Choong Luen.
He added that drivers diagnosed with COVID-19 or issued with a quarantine order would enjoy receive earnings protection insurance coverage of up to S$6,900, and have their vehicle rental waived if they are on the firm’s vehicle rental programme GoFleet.
“Taking into account that ridership is likely to take time to recover after the end of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), the Government is also looking into a further extension to the COVID-19 driver relief fund beyond the current tranche ending in end June 2021,” said the LTA, adding that more details would be provided at a later date.
The LTA noted drivers had also expressed concern about the potential loss of income should they be served a quarantine order after coming into close contact with individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 infection.
“In this regard, drivers can continue to tap on schemes such as the quarantine order allowance scheme administered by the Ministry of Health and other relief schemes provided by their taxi and private-hire car operators.
"Drivers who are National Taxi Association and National Private Hire Vehicles Association members can also receive a one-off $200 assistance provided by the associations, if they have been served a quarantine order,” it said.
The National Taxi Association and National Private Hire Vehicles Association said in a statement on Friday that the additional COVID-19 driver relief fund support "is a relief" to drivers.
"The past week has been really tough ... With the tightened measures such as no dining out, work-from-home as the default and schools switching to home-based learning, the earnings of our drivers have been affected greatly," it said.
It also said that drivers are likely to continue to face challenges with their income stream even after the heightened alert period, as there will be a recovery period before things get better.
"As the recovery is expected to be longer than before, we will need to continue working closely together to support our workers, protect their livelihoods and emerge stronger as a community," it said.
In a Facebook post, Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor noted more than 80 per cent of taxi and private-hire drivers had already received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Thanking them for helping to make commuting safer, Dr Khor also encouraged other drivers to get vaccinated.
"Let’s continue to be socially responsible and play our part to help limit the spread of COVID-19," she said.
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