The Singapore Government has another S$5.1 billion to help Singapore weather the COVID-19 crisis in a third support package. The package, called the Solidarity Budget, was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat today. It is aimed at saving jobs and protecting livelihoods during the four weeks when schools and non-essential businesses have to be shut as part of the “circuit breaker” distancing measures that will kick in from Tuesday.
“These measures will impact our workers and businesses severely,” said Mr Heng in Parliament. “Additional support will be required to save jobs, preserve capabilities, and provide immediate direct assistance to Singaporeans to help them tide through this exceptional and difficult period.”
This is the first time that the Singapore Government has released three Budgets in less than two months, following the S$6.4 billion Unity Budget in February and the record-breaking S$48 billion Resilience Budget 26 March.
“The primary aim of this Solidarity Budget is to take further steps to save jobs and protect the livelihoods of our people during this temporary period of heightened measures,” said Mr Heng. “We will also help businesses preserve their capacity and capabilities, to resume activities when the circuit breaker is lifted.” Households will also receive cash payouts to help them tide through this difficult period, he said.
About S$4 billion will go to bolstering support for businesses to help them retain workers and stay viable. First, the Jobs Support Scheme will be further enhanced so that all companies will now get 75 per cent of wage support for local employees in April, up from 25 per cent previously. In addition, the first payout under the scheme will be brought forward to April, with some firms to receive the first tranche next week.
There will also be additional financing help for businesses, announced Mr Heng. The Government will take on a bigger risk share of loans made under the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme, the Enterprise Financing Scheme – SME Working Capital Loan, and the Enterprise Financing Scheme – Trade Loan from 80 per cent to 90 per cent for loans initiated from Apr 8 to 31 March.
In an immediate response to the announcement, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) said the elevated measures to rein in the spread of the COVID-19 will provide immediate, direct and significant relief, homing in on the pain points of businesses – cash, cost and credit – during this challenging time. “The enhanced and generous Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), which increases the wage offset to 75% for the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages per local employee from all sectors for April, will greatly alleviate the cashflow challenges companies will face during the upcoming “circuit breaker” period. The earlier payout will also ensure that employees get paid on time and are retained.”
“The waiver of the foreign worker levy for April and rebate of $750 for each Work Permit Holder or S Pass holder will help mitigate the cost pressures our companies, particularly those in sectors with higher number of foreign workers. SBF also hopes that landlords will follow the example of the Government in supporting their tenants and go beyond passing on the full property tax rebate to help their tenants with their cashflow challenges.”