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'The need is stronger for someone else': Singaporeans dip into government payouts to help others hit by COVID-19 outbreak

'The need is stronger for someone else': Singaporeans dip into government payouts to help others hit by COVID-19 outbreak

A woman seen wearing a protective face mask at Changi Airport. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: Like many Singaporeans, freelancer Sophia Sim has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With her gigs having dried up, Ms Sim, who works in the film industry, is living on her savings and help from the Temporary Relief Fund. The one-off S$600 payout from the Government, disbursed as part of the Solidarity Budget on Tuesday (Apr 14), will also tide her over the difficult time. 

“When I received news that there would a payout, I felt quite grateful because I’m in the arts industry, in the film industry - we are quite badly affected," she told CNA. "I was very grateful ... It would definitely sustain me for a bit."

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However, Ms Sim believes there are some out there that require more help, such as Singapore's migrant workers, and hopes to contribute a portion of her payout towards this cause. 

"The need is stronger for someone else. The amount is significant to me, but it is even more significant to (others)," Ms Sim explained. "I hope it wouldn’t seem like I’m making a big sacrifice or contribution. I personally think it’s only a small thing I can do to perhaps alleviate a much bigger issue."

The S$600 payout was announced as part of the Solidarity Budget, which aims to help firms, workers and households amid a worsening pandemic that has affected many sectors in Singapore. 

Nine in 10 Singaporeans would have received the payout on Tuesday, as they had previously provided their bank account details for such payments.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat had urged those who can to donate the payouts to charities on the website or the Community Chest’s Courage Fund, or to directly share it with others.

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“Not everyone will need these cash payouts. I am very encouraged that many have written to me, my ministerial colleagues and MPs, that they do not need the cash payouts, and suggest that we give these to those who need the cash more. I thank fellow Singaporeans for your thoughtfulness,” said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister.


Ms Sim is not alone in her desire to help others using her payout. 

A fundraiser titled "Give Your Solidarity Payment to Break Cycles of Inequality #wegiveinsolidarity" has seen more than S$67,000 raised from about 450 contributors as of 11.30am on Wednesday. 

The fundraiser hopes to benefit five organisations and help them to support vulnerable groups. These organisations include charities such as Boys' Town, Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME), Red Cross, women's rights group Aware, as well as Hagar, an organisation that helps women and children.

Account manager Nicholas Lee donated S$300 of his payout to a Red Cross campaign to help the elderly on the same morning the money was credited to his bank account.

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“I’m lucky that my job is stable enough in this period … When I received notice of this sum, I wanted to donate it all away, but I wanted to find the right cause,” said the 27-year-old.

Mr Lee hopes to use the remaining S$300 to help other causes close to his heart, such as children in low-income families.

"What made me want to help out the elderly and kids (who are in need) is because their basic needs cannot be fulfilled," he said. "For the elderly, it's having enough food to eat. For kids, it's being able to attend lessons, having trouble doing home-based learning. That's why I felt very affected - these (are the) very basic needs that we take for granted, that they can’t actually have."

Civil servant Esna Ong is hoping to reach two groups with her payout - migrant workers as well as children in need of laptops for home-based learning, which has been imposed on all schools throughout the circuit breaker period. 

“In this time if you have extra and you have a stable job, I think it’s all the more important to give to others. My parents always encouraged us to give," said Ms Ong, who wants to donate her full payout.

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Ms Ong has already given S$300 to the COVID-19 Migrant Support Coalition, an informal group consisting of volunteers that want to help migrant workers. One of its goals is to curate learning resources to help the workers in equipping themselves with new knowledge and skills.

"Sometimes its not just enough to give money without really thinking what you’re giving to," she said. "It’s about having that multiplier effect and choosing a place where that multiplier effect can be stronger.”

Ms Stephanie Siow, who works in corporate communications, noted that these donations could help others for whom the payouts were insufficient.

"This is an unprecedented crisis and a lot of these less privileged groups need a lot more help than what the Government can give, because the Government needs to take care of everyone," said Ms Siow who has donated her full payout to HOME and Hagar. "Those more privileged should give a little bit more if they can."

"Generally speaking, for some lower-income Singaporeans or PRs (permanent residents) ... the payout might not be enough for them," she added. "For those who are comfortable, if we all can give a little bit, then we might help them a little bit more."

Editor's note: A correction has been made to a line stating that nine in 10 Singaporeans will receive the payout. The numbers refer to those who would have received their payout on Tuesday. We apologise for the error.

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Source: CNA/mt(hs)


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