COVID-19: Self-employed hit by slowdown look forward to details on cash support

COVID-19: Self-employed hit by slowdown look forward to details on cash support

mahes at work
Ms Maheswari, a self-employed make-up artist has had all her brides-to-be clients cancel their bookings till end of April. (Photo: Shots by Sara)

SINGAPORE: Shortly after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced on Thursday (Mar 26) that eligible self employed workers would get financial support of S$1,000 a month for nine months, Facebook and Telegram groups made up of potential beneficiaries were abuzz with questions. 

READ: COVID-19 Budget: Self-employed people, firms, first-time jobseekers to receive more support

Chief on the list was who would be eligible for the cash, under the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme. The move to help the self-employed was part of a S$48 billion supplementary budget in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

While Mr Heng said that the Ministry of Manpower will release more details, the self-employed were eagerly looking for possible eligibility criteria. 

"I was Googling frantically about how to apply," said Ms Maheswari, a self-employed make-up artist. 

She told CNA that with weddings postponed in March and April and with no way to say when they will take place, it will be a struggle to get by. 

She will lose about S$3,000 on average each month but will have to continue forking out about S$1,500 for a shared studio space that she operates from, she said. 

READ: 'It always helps when you know you are not alone': Freelancers rally online after taking hit from COVID-19 outbreak

While she has personal savings that will cover her in the short term, she said that the S$1,000 would be a relief even it does not cover all her expenses. 

"It will take half the stress off me," she said. 

In explaining the rationale behind the financial relief, Mr Heng said that he has received feedback from the labour movement on the need for stronger support for the self-employed who have less income security and whose livelihoods may be affected during this period of economic uncertainty. 

He mentioned workers across diverse industries, such as taxi and private-hire car drivers, real estate agents, media and art freelancers, and sport coaches. 

Ms Nur Aisyah Churimi, a self-employed therapist who conducts programmes for children and young people with special needs, said that her costs have increased while the number of clients has decreased. 

"I'm definitely experiencing income loss because most of the parents put such support on hold," she said. 

She now travels with students almost exclusively in private hire vehicles as a precaution against COVID-19, paying extra both for the mode of transport and insurance she bought so that the students are covered if they get infected. 

QUESTIONS ON PROVING SELF-EMPLOYED STATUS

Ms Vera Mao had concerns about how she could prove that she is self-employed. 

Having registered her fair trade custom jewellery business two months ago, the 28-year-old said she has not had to file any income tax claims, which is one of the possible ways to prove her employment status. 

The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore website says that a self-employed person may be a sole-proprietor or a partner in a partnership.

Examples of occupations that fall under this category under IRAS include babysitters, freelancers who receive fees for delivery, graphic designing and consultancy services, owners of food stalls and online businesses, private tutors and owners of practices, such as lawyers and doctors. 

Florist Daryl Cheng who has lost about S$20,000 in revenue so far due to the cancellation and postponement of weddings - his core business - said that he expects the criteria to perhaps be limited to those households which have no other income source. 

Mr Cheng has been looking for other ways to increase his revenue, such as through flower deliveries. He has overheads such as rental for a studio space to take care of. 

"There's no clear definition right now, but if I'm eligible, it will go some way in covering my rental," he said. 

Source: CNA/ja

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