SINGAPORE: Taxi and private-hire car drivers are set to receive an additional S$133 million in support from the Government, in a move aimed at moderating the impact from the cessation of a relief scheme for self-employed workers, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Wednesday (Dec 16).
The additional support will come under a new COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund, and is on top of the S$55 million already committed to the existing Special Relief Fund, said LTA in a news release.
Under the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund, drivers will receive S$600 per vehicle per month between January and March, and S$450 between April and June.
The new scheme will replace the existing Special Relief Fund, which was started in February to help active taxi and private-hire car drivers defray costs. Drivers received monthly payouts of S$300 per vehicle per month under that scheme.
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About 52,000 drivers who are currently eligible for the Special Relief Fund will be automatically transitioned to the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund from January.
The new fund will be introduced as the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme - introduced as part of the Resilience Budget in March - comes to an end. Under the scheme, eligible drivers would have received S$3,000 each in May, July and October.
Recipients of the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund will not be eligible for the new COVID-19 Recovery Grant announced on Wednesday by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
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In a joint statement on Wednesday, the National Private Hire Vehicles Association and the National Taxi Association said the announcement is a "much-welcomed move".
Leaders from both associations have been engaging tripartite partners to share concerns and feedback from the ground on the COVID-19 situation.
Tripartite partners have also been engaging drivers through dialogue sessions, noting their concerns and providing timely assistance, they added.
"This payout will bring much relief to our drivers as even though the economy is opening, it is still not at pre-COVID-19 levels," the associations said.
"We are also grateful to our operators for showing care towards the drivers during this period, from rolling out rental waivers and commission relief during the 'circuit breaker' period to extending a short-term relief fund for drivers on quarantine order and stay-home notices – this is a partnership on all fronts to support our drivers through this pandemic."
Despite the improving COVID-19 situation in Singapore, taxi and private-hire car ridership are still lower than pre-COVID-19 levels as tourism activities remain “muted” and many employees continue to work from home, said LTA on Wednesday.
“COVID-19 has also changed commuting patterns, with shorter taxi and PHC (private-hire car) trips which result in lower fares per trip,” LTA added.
“LTA has been monitoring the situation closely, in particular the continued concerns among taxi and PHC drivers over their incomes and livelihoods as we head into 2021, and has regularly engaged drivers, operators, the National Taxi Association and the National Private Hire Vehicles Association.”
NTUC Director and Labour MP Yeo Wan Ling said drivers shared their concerns during the last engagement session with Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor.
"Some of them are sole breadwinners, supporting their family and children, and with border closures and COVID-19 measures in place, they are not able to earn what they did previously," she said.
She also expressed gratitude to tripartite partners who will be providing additional support for drivers.
"This combined with the other assistance such as the Self-employed persons Income Reliefs Scheme and rental waivers from platforms provided some relief to our drivers," she said.
"NTUC will also continue to look out for our workers, with the first tranche of the NCF and subsequently, the enhanced NCF, providing cash relief to tide them over difficult times.”