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Businesses, workers affected by tightened Covid-19 rules to get govt support

SINGAPORE – Businesses and workers affected by the tightened safe management measures from July 22 to Aug 18 will get help from the Government through a new package of targeted support measures.

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said this package will take reference from the support provided in the previous phase two (heightened alert) period, which had worked out to be somewhere in the region of $800 million to $900 million.

The Government aims to finance the new package without drawing on its past reserves, he added. 

“We had to go into past reserves previously – it was an emergency situation and we had no choice. But under the current situation where the economy is already recovering and still expected to recover… I think we should try to find other ways to fund the package without having to dip into past reserves.” 

The Ministry of Finance (MOF) will announce more details in the next few days.

Mr Wong said the Government understands the frustrations of businesses, and it will review the measures and consider adjustments in two weeks.

“I fully understand that many affected businesses will feel deeply, deeply disappointed by this turn of events. Many would have been looking forward earlier on to the reopening. They would have made preparations and started putting in place systems to differentiate customers based on vaccination status,” said Mr Wong.

All customers will not be able to dine in at food and beverage establishments under the tightened restrictions starting on Thursday.

Mr Wong added that the decision to tighten safe management measures was a difficult one, especially since Singapore has been ramping up vaccinations.

“But based on the assessment of the way the cases have developed, the many clusters we are seeing and how it’s likely to have transmitted into the community, we’ve decided that we have to put in place something to slow down the transmission,” he said, adding that Singapore will continue to push ahead with its vaccination programme and will eventually get back on track with its reopening plans.

Singapore previously tightened Covid-19 restrictions for about a month from May 16, with dining in at eateries prohibited and working from home made the default, as large clusters emerged and community cases rose. Curbs were eased from June 14.

The previous measures included wage subsidies of 50 per cent under the Jobs Support Scheme given from May 16 to July 11 for businesses in the food and beverage, sports, performing arts and arts education sectors.

The support was 30 per cent for qualifying retail outlets, cinema operators, museums, art galleries, historical sites and family entertainment centres.

The support under the scheme was reduced to 10 per cent from July 12 to 25.

Lower- to middle-income workers significantly affected until end-July were offered up to $700 under a temporary Covid-19 Recovery Grant.

They must not already be receiving support under the Covid-19 Recovery Grant launched in January.

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A driver relief fund offered eligible taxi and private-hire car drivers $750 per vehicle per month from May 16 to June 30.

The amount was reduced to $300 a month per vehicle from July over two months, and $150 a month per vehicle in the third month.

Hawkers in places managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) or NEA-appointed operators received a two-month rental waiver.

A month of rental waiver was also given for qualifying tenants of government-owned commercial properties.

Meanwhile, small and medium-sized enterprises will continue receiving help to access credit.

The Temporary Bridging Loan Programme and the Enhanced Enterprise Financing Scheme – Trade Loan was this month extended for an additional six months, from Oct 1 to March 31 next year.

The parameters for both schemes remain unchanged, including the government risk-share of 70 per cent.

The Temporary Bridging Loan Programme is aimed at helping local companies manage their immediate cash-flow needs, while the Enhanced Enterprise Financing Scheme – Trade Loan covers businesses’ trade needs in areas such as inventory and stock financing.

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About half of the funding for the previous package will come from an amount that was originally budgeted for the Deep Tunnel Sewerage System and the North-South Corridor.

This is a one-off adjustment as the Significant Infrastructure Government Loan Act – which allows borrowing for these projects – was passed after the financial year had started.

The remainder will be reallocated from the under-utilisation of development expenditure, mainly due to delays in projects as a result of the pandemic.

A Supplementary Supply Bill will be introduced to effect the reallocation of the funds. Past reserves will not be tapped.

Read next: What you need to know about Singapore’s Covid-19 rules from July 22

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