Asia

Cab, private-hire drivers to get higher payouts from next year under new scheme

SINGAPORE – Drivers of taxis and private-hire cars will get a higher amount of sector-specific payouts from next year, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Wednesday (Dec 16).

This is meant to help cushion the impact of a relief scheme for self-employed workers coming to an end.

Eligible drivers in the point-to-point (P2P) transport sector will get $600 per vehicle each every month between January and March 2021, up from $300, announced LTA.

This will be reduced to $450 a month between April and June.

LTA said this new scheme, called the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund, will cost $133 million.

It replaces the Special Relief Fund, through which P2P drivers have been receiving payouts since February.

The total assistance given to the sector now stands at about $380 million.

P2P drivers who receive the payouts under the new fund will not be eligible for the Covid-19 Recovery Grant announced by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

About 52,00 drivers – main taxi hirers and full-time drivers of private-hire cars – eligible for the Special Relief Fund will be automatically transitioned to the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund from next month.

LTA said the increase in the sector-specific payout will moderate the impact of the end of the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme. This scheme, introduced in March, provided self-employed people with three quarterly cash payouts of $3,000 each to help them with the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

In explaining the continued payouts for drivers, LTA said: “Despite the improving Covid-19 situation in Singapore, taxi and private-hire car ridership remains lower than pre-Covid levels as tourism activities remain muted and many employees are still working from home.

“Covid-19 has also changed commuting patterns, with shorter taxi and private-hire car trips, which result in lower fares per trip.”

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LTA added that it has been monitoring the situation and paying particular attention to the concerns drivers have about their income and livelihood.

The authority said in an update in November that ridership for taxi and private-hire cars was still at 75 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels.

But this figure is on the higher end of estimates made by drivers and taxi companies, who have said that ridership is slightly above 66 per cent of pre-outbreak levels.

A first package of $77 million was first announced in February to help the P2P sector, followed by a $120 million package in March.

The third package of $112 million was announced in September, with ridership still at lower levels than before the pandemic. Of this sum, $106 million was set aside to extend the Special Relief Fund to next March. About half of the $106 million has been committed to the fund so far, while the remaining sum will be channelled to the new driver relief fund.

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