SINGAPORE: The Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), which helps retain jobs by subsidising workers' salaries, will be extended for sectors which continue to be hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (Feb 16).
This comes as part of an S$11 billion COVID-19 Resilience Package that aims to tackle the “immediate tasks” of continuing the fight against the pandemic, Mr Heng said.
The package will focus on three prongs: Continuing to support workers and businesses, safeguarding public health and providing targeted help to sectors that are still under stress.
Mr Heng noted that the slew of Budget measures announced last year helped prevent “deep economic scarring and permanent impairing” of Singapore’s economy. In particular, the JSS was meant to protect jobs and help firms retain local workers.
The JSS, which was first introduced in the Budget 2020 statement last February, has subsidised between 25 and 75 per cent of wages for firms. This is the fourth extension of the scheme, and will cost the Government another S$700 million.
“So far, we have committed over S$25 billion to the JSS, and supported over 150,000 employers for up to 17 months. The current tranche will continue to cover wages up to March 2021 for most sectors,” Mr Heng said.
But he noted that even as the economy is recovering, some sectors remain under stress, which is why the Government will “tailor support to maintain resilience and support growing areas”.
For starters, firms in Tier 1 sectors – aviation, aerospace and tourism – will get a six-month extension for the JSS. These firms will get 30 per cent support for wages paid from April to June this year, and 10 per cent support for wages paid from July to September.
Firms in Tier 2 sectors – such as retail, food services, arts and culture, and marine and offshore – will get wage support of 10 per cent for three more months, covering wages paid up to June.
But there will be no changes for firms in Tier 3A sectors, which are generally recovering, Mr Heng said. The JSS will cover 10 per cent of wages up to March for firms in these sectors, as previously announced.
Mr Heng added that though nightlife establishments are not yet permitted to re-open, they can apply for grants to pivot to other activities or wind down, he said.
Certain schemes within the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package will also be extended, including the Jobs Growth Incentive and specific training and attachment opportunities, Mr Heng said.
The COVID-19 Resilience Package will also fund the COVID-19 Recovery Grant, which supports workers who lost their jobs or suffered “significant income loss”.
Applications opened on Jan 18 this year and as of Feb 15, more than 5,000 applications have been approved, said Mr Heng.
READ: Singapore economy could have contracted 12.4% if not for COVID-19 Budget measures: MAS estimates
SAFEGUARDING PUBLIC HEALTH
About S$4.8 billion of the package will also go towards safeguarding public health and ensuring the safe reopening of Singapore's economy.
“Vaccinating our people is key,” said Mr Heng, noting that as of Feb 14 this year, close to 250,000 people have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Of these, about 55,000 have received their second dose.
“At the same time, we must continue to contain the spread of the virus, by keeping up our precautionary measures and our multi-layered defence system of contact tracing, testing, and safe distancing,” he said.
Editor's note: This story has been updated following clarification from the Ministry of Finance on the number of employers supported by the JSS.