COVID-19 Updates: Support for the community, lifeline for families in Fortitude Budget

In our previous article, we took a glance into what Budget Fortitude would bring to local enterprises and workers affected by the pandemic. Today, we will be looking at the second portion of Budget Fortitude and the respective relief measures set aside for families. The core value behind the Government’s 4th relief measure is to ensure that households are supported and to strengthen the community in these difficult times.

Providing assistance to those with immediate needs

With many businesses grinded to a halt and profits running into the negatives, businesses are cutting lean and laying off workers in the hopes of delaying the unwanted future of a possible foreclosure. All around the world, countries are witnessing massive job losses, with America alone seeing a massive 26 million reduction in jobs under just 5 weeks due to the coronavirus.

Singapore is not spared either, with workers in severely hit sectors such as aviation and maritime turning to alternative job positions or taking no-pay leaves. In support for these furloughed individuals, the COVID-19 Support Grant (CSG) was set up as a scheme to provide temporal monetary relief for a few months till situations see an improvement.

Under the Fortitude Budget, an additional $800 million was pledged to support affected Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) who have either lost their jobs, placed on no-pay leave or faced with mandatory and significant reduction in salaries specifically to COVID-19. Up to $800 will be awarded to these individuals for a duration of 3 months. This ensures that no one is left alone without support.

Utilities Support Credit

With most of Singapore hunkering down and fighting the virus by staying home during the Circuit Breaker measure, households would have noticed a significant increase in household utilities bill expenditures. To provide a little push, the Government has initiated a $100 Solidarity Utilities Credit for each household, where there is at least 1 Singaporean Citizen. This covers households across all property types. The payout will be credited and reflected in the household’s utility bills with SP Group in the month of July or August 2020. This one-off payment is complementary to the previous payout under the Solidarity Payment and Care and Support Package in which individuals received between $300-$600 depending on income levels.

Going Digital

With schools and educational institutions placed under the Home-Based Learning (HBL) program in which lessons and learning are all conducted via online platforms. This was done so to prevent cross mingling of students across different backgrounds to minimise the spread of the virus. Successful conduction of the HBL would require for students to possess a personal working digital learning device which has access to the internet. As such, to minimise disruption to the learning progress of its students, the Government’s multi-taskforce will ensure that secondary school students are given first-priority and provided accelerated assistance should they be unable to gain access to any such device.

With seniors encouraged to stay home due to their heightened risks of contracting the virus, the Government is taking the chance to foster digital literacy amongst them, as well as to provide a source of entertainment and mental stimulus amidst these times. Under the Seniors Go Digital movement, one-to-one assistance and small-group learning classes are conducted to coach seniors and boost their digital literacy. Financial support was also be granted to support seniors from lower-income groups to purchase their own digital device. This measure is definitely a plus, as seniors are given a second chance to reintegrate and reconnect with their younger family members, or perhaps even reintegrate back into society by picking up a new skill.

Supporting charities

Under the Enhanced Fund-Raising (EFR) Programme, the government will conduct a dollar-for-dollar matching on eligible donations raised between the periods of 1st April 2020 to 31st March 2021, capped at $250,000 per charitable organisation. This support would total up to a further $100million on government expenses. The Invictus Fund will provide $18 million in top-up amounts to help social services and agencies maintain, retain and retrain their staff as well as to integrate technology into their services.

As Singapore gradually reopens her economy in phases, let us all remain cautious and responsible. A single person’s actions could undo all that the Singapore Government has been trying to achieve for the past few months. As long as we work together as one nation, nothing can faze us!

Clive Chng
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