SINGAPORE: More sectors affected by the latest COVID-19 restrictions will get wage subsidies under the Jobs Support Scheme, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said on Friday (May 28).
Mr Wong, who is also co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force, said the toughened measures have helped combat a spike in community cases.
"Our assessment is that the measures are working and they are having an effect in controlling the spread of the virus," he said. There is no need for stricter restrictions, he added.
Singapore entered Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) on May 16 amid rising COVID-19 community cases. The tightened restrictions are to last until Jun 13.
Group sizes for gatherings have been cut to two people, and dining-in at all F&B outlets banned. People should also work from home by default during this period.
READ: COVID-19 grant to provide one-off payout to workers suffering income loss, on no-pay leave during Heightened Alert period
When the measures were announced on May 14, the Government raised the Jobs Support subsidy for F&B businesses from 10 to 50 per cent for salaries paid up to June 2021.
The scheme provides subsidies to companies for the first S$4,600 of gross monthly wages paid to local employees.
The 50 per cent wage support has now been extended to sectors and businesses where many, if not all, of their operations are suspended during the period of heightened alert.
This includes gyms, fitness studios, performing arts organisations, and arts education centres. The Jobs Support subsidy replaces an operating grant for gyms and fitness studios earlier announced.
Sectors that are not required to suspend operations but are significantly affected by the tightened measures will get wage subsidies of 30 per cent from May 16 to Jun 13.
These are businesses in the retail sector, affected personal care services, museums, art galleries, historical sites, cinemas, indoor playgrounds and other family entertainment centres. Some retailers like supermarkets, convenience stores and online retailers will not be eligible.
The payout, based on wages paid between April and June this year, will be disbursed in September, said the Ministry of Finance (MOF).
Companies that put local employees on mandatory no-pay leave or retrench them will not be eligible for Jobs Support payouts for those employees.
“I would encourage businesses to make full use of the enhanced JSS to retain and pay their workers during this period, and to use the lull period to invest in workers through training and upskilling programmes," said Mr Wong.
Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and eligible non-profit organisations (with revenue of S$100 million or less) on certain commercial properties will also receive rental relief.
These include businesses at properties like hotels, serviced apartments, MICE venues, ferry terminals or cruise centres, tourist attractions, cinemas, schools, health or medical buildings and cinemas.
Government-owned commercial properties will get one month of rental relief for qualifying tenants. Tenants will be required to pass down the rental relief received to qualifying sub-tenants, if any.
Some privately owned commercial properties have given rental waivers or rebates to tenants, said MOF. To provide additional support, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore will disburse half a month of rental relief in cash to qualifying tenants as part of a new Rental Support Scheme. The payout will be disbursed starting from mid-August.
Those who run an SME business or non-profit organisation on their own property will also be eligible for the cash payout.
Hawkers and coffee shop stallholders who are tenants of government agencies are already getting one month of rental waiver. Authorities also encouraged commercial landlords to “support their F&B tenants through this period”.
Fees for table-cleaning and centralised dishwashing services have also been waived for around 6,000 cooked food stallholders in hawker centres managed by the National Environment Agency or appointed operators.
Mr Wong also announced help for people suffering from income loss in the form of a one-off grant.
Those who have been put on at least one month of involuntary no-pay leave or have suffered income loss of at least 50 per cent for at least one month between May 16 and Jun 30 may apply for the grant.
The package of support measures will cost the Government S$800 million, which will be funded through reallocation from development expenditure.
Mr Wong said that the package is "not of the same scale" as previous support measures as most parts of the economy are still operating.
"Our circumstances today are very different compared to last year. And under such a circumstance, I don't think we should be going to the President to seek permission to draw on our past reserves," he said.
"In fact, we must expect to run into situations like these from time to time, where we experience an occasional outbreak of cases in our community, and we will then need to tighten restrictions temporarily to control the spread of the virus.
"So we will have to learn to adapt to such situations, using our own resources rather than to dip into our past reserves."
The Government does not expect to require an additional draw on past reserves at this point, said MOF. Mr Wong will table a Supplementary Supply Bill at the next Parliament sitting in July for the reallocation.