SINGAPORE: People who are eligible for the COVID-19 Support Grant need not wait until they are unemployed for three consecutive months before applying for assistance, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee on Thursday (Jun 4).
He was responding to questions from Member of Parliament Denise Phua about the eligibility criteria for the COVID-19 Support Grant.
“The ‘three or more consecutive months’ requirement for no-pay leave and income loss scenarios is to ensure that help is channelled to those who have greater needs," Mr Lee said in Parliament.
Affected employees need not wait till they are affected for three consecutive months to apply.
"They are eligible for the COVID-19 Support Grant now if they provide supporting documents, such as a letter from their employer, showing that they will be affected for at least three consecutive months."
The grant covers those who have lost their jobs, are placed on no-pay leave, or will see salaries significantly reduced due to COVID-19.
S$800 million has been set aside on top of its previous commitment, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced on May 26 as part of the Fortitude Budget.
READ: Fortitude Budget: Additional S$800 million set aside for COVID-19 Support Grant; S$100 one-off utilities credit
Individuals who are ineligible for the COVID-19 Support Grant but require further support can apply for ComCare assistance, which provides monthly cash assistance to low-income households to help cover daily living expenses, household bills and medical expenses.
However, those who are receiving ComCare assistance are not eligible for the COVID-19 Support Grant.
“To further assist ComCare beneficiaries, those whose assistance would end between May and July 2020 have had their support automatically extended for a further six months,” said Mr Lee.
ComCare beneficiaries can also visit Social Service Officers (SSOs) for a review of their current support if their circumstances have changed - for instance, if they have lost their jobs or faced a reduction in income due to COVID-19.
“While reviewing their ComCare support, SSOs can also provide them with interim assistance if they have urgent financial needs,” he added.
Additionally, those who are newly placed on ComCare will receive at least six months of assistance, providing them with a "longer runway to regain stability", the minister said.
READ: COVID-19: Financial assistance schemes to help lower- to middle-income Singaporeans affected by outbreak
PROVIDING AN INTEGRATED SOCIAL SAFETY NET
In a supplementary question, Ms Phua asked if the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will help in directing individuals, given that “different schemes are administered by different organisations”.
In response, Mr Lee said that officers at SSOs will make the necessary referrals if they identify individuals who would qualify or should apply for other schemes.
“We need to ensure that agencies have deep knowledge in the schemes that they administer - to be able to focus on their schemes - but also have good awareness about related schemes and programs that are beneficial to Singaporeans at this time,” he added.
MSF, the People’s Association and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth will be strengthening the SG Cares Community networks in phases and bringing together volunteers and staff to reach out to "lower income, more vulnerable households", the minister said.
This will help “provide a more seamless and integrated social safety net for those who are very hard hit” by COVID-19.
“We will bring together the community of volunteers and staff to proactively reach out to low-income or vulnerable households, beginning with those living in rental flats, to check in on them and find out how they're doing,” he said.
Mr Lee announced on Tuesday that over the next few weeks, SMSes will be sent to about 50,000 rental households to inform them of hotlines and the help available. Calls will also be made to households that are not known to social agencies to find out how they are coping.
“If we encounter families that are in distress, the front-facing outreach will then move to (provide) coordinated support among the social service agencies and government departments, depending on what the issues are,” Mr Lee said.