The Singapore Government will be funding an additional S$8bn worth of COVID-19 support measures, the Ministry of Finance announced yesterday.

In his ministerial statement, Minister for Finance, Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat noted that residents and workers have been sharing their anxieties on job security and loss of income, while Business and union leaders have also spoken about their efforts to retain workers and help them upskill or retrain.

He said: "Regardless of your circumstances, the Government will help you to rebuild from this crisis, working in close tripartite partnership.

"Together, we must continue to adapt to the rapidly changing situation. We designed our measures to give us flexibility for adjustments as the crisis progresses. Some of these measures are ending soon. It is therefore timely for us to advance our strategies in three areas."

These three areas, which are detailed below, include:

  1. Continued support for jobs, and creating new ones
  2. Providing further support for sectors which have been hit the hardest
  3. Positioning Singapore to seize growth opportunities in a post-COVID-19 world

#1 Continued support for jobs, and creating new ones 

JSS extended till March 2021 

The Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), which was introduced in Unity Budget back in February and meant to cover the wages of employed workers up to August 2020, will be extended by up to seven months. It will now cover wages paid up to March 2021.

To date, the over S$16mn of JSS payouts have been disbursed, benefitting over two million local workers in more than 150,000 firms.

While it has now been extended, Minister Heng highlighted that the JSS cannot be sustained at current levels, as it draws heavily on the nation's past reserves and "risks trapping our workers in unviable businesses." 

"Some sectors are also recovering faster than others. I will therefore adjust support based on the projected recovery of the different sectors."

For instance:

  • In the aerospace, aviation, and tourism sectors, which have been hardest hit, the Government will provide support at 50% wage levels for seven more months
  • The built environment sector will receive 50% wage support for two more months, before this decreases to 30% for wages paid up to March 2021. This is in line with the phased resumption of construction activities, Minister Heng stated.
  • The arts and entertainment, food services, land transport, marine and offshore, and retail sectors will receive 30% wage support, also for seven more months. 
  • The large majority of the remaining sectors will receive 10% support for seven more months.
  • For the few sectors including biomedical sciences, financial services, and ICT which are doing well, the Government will provide 10% support for four more months, for wages paid up to December 2020.

Commenting on this, Minister Heng said: "With the JSS extension, most businesses will receive wage support for 17 months to help them retain as many workers as possible. Over these months, JSS support will range from 10% to 75%. Even at 10% support, the payouts cover more than half of employers' CPF contributions. This ensures that we continue to build up the CPF savings of our workers during the crisis.

"I urge all businesses to make full use of this additional support to retain and upskill your workers, and to transform your operations for the post-COVID-19 world. This will enable you to spring back faster when the recovery comes. For firms that are coping well, I encourage you to return or donate your JSS payouts. Nearly 600 firms have already done so, and I thank them for their sense of community."

Full details on the extended JSS can be found here

Jobs Growth Incentive launched for creating new jobs 

In creating new jobs, Minister Heng noted: "There are bright spots amidst the severe economic situation. Our biomedical sciences, financial services, and ICT sectors continue to need more workers. The public healthcare and long-term care sectors are hiring. Some firms in the F&B and manufacturing sectors are growing and innovating."

In supporting these areas, the Government will launch the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI), which will support its efforts to create new jobs for workers, while placing a special focus on mature workers; amounting to S$1bn, it will support firms in increasing their headcount of local workers over the next six months.

For these firms, the Government will co-pay up to 25% of salaries of all new local hires for one year, subject to a cap; the co-payment will be up to 50% for those aged 40 and above.

More details on this will be provided by the Ministry of Manpower later this month.

COVID-19 Support Grant extended till December 2020 

In supporting workers who have faced retrenchments, the Government will be extending the COVID-19 Support Grant (CSG) till the end of this year, to help Singaporeans who are unemployed or have suffered significant income loss.

Since its introduction in May, more than 60,000 residents have benefitted from the scheme, with more than S$90mn disbursed thus far. Beginning 1 October 2020, the extension will be open to existing CSG recipients and new applicants, who will have to demonstrate job search or training efforts.

More details on this will be shared by the Ministry of Social and Family Development will share more details in early September.

Minister Heng added: "Our labour market is likely to remain weak beyond 2020. We are studying how to continue supporting employees and self-employed persons who are most vulnerable."

In similar updates, the Government is working with the tripartite partners to update the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment, to incorporate the Fair Retrenchment Framework proposed by NTUC.

Widened eligibility of Workfare Special Payment

Currently, workers on the Workfare Income Supplement scheme for work done in 2019 are eligible for the S$3,000 Workfare Special Payment. Moving forward, the Government will widen the eligibility of the payment to include those who were not on Workfare last year, but have received or will be receiving Workfare for work done this year.

#2 Providing further support for sectors which have been hit the hardest 

While the above-mentioned measures are to provide support for workers in all sectors, the Government will also be providing further support for the hardest-hit sectors - namely, aerospace, aviation, and tourism, to retain core capabilities and position them for an eventual recovery.

In doing so, the Government will be working with companies to support workers with specialised skills, as well as to provide further sectoral support. 

Aviation sector 

The Government will allocate an additional S$187mn to extend the support measures in the Enhanced Aviation Support Package up to March 2021. This will provide cost relief for airlines, ground handlers, cargo agents, and airport tenants, and will also support local carriers in regaining the country's air connectivity to the world.

For workers in this sector who cannot work now, the Government has been helping redeploy them to other areas of need, where their skills are valued. So far, about 500 aircrew have been redeployed to hospitals as Care Ambassadors, tapping on their service skills to support non-clinical work.

In line with this, the Government will be scaling up the temporary redeployment programme, creating around 4,000 new jobs, including permanent roles, in the healthcare sector alone, as well as creating more jobs in other areas of need.

Tourism sector 

In aiding this sector, the Government will set aside S$320mn for tourism credits that Singaporeans can use. These will be called the SingapoRediscovers Vouchers. Minister Heng said: "Many Singaporeans love to travel but are unable to do so now. Local consumption will not fully make up for tourist spending, but I hope Singaporeans will take the opportunity to explore our local culture and heritage, nature, art, and architecture. You may be surprised by what you discover."

The Ministry of Trade and Industry will provide more details next month.

Arts and culture, and sports sector 

Given that these sectors will take much longer to resume full activities, following earlier support provided through the Resilience Budget, Minister Heng noted that the he is prepared provide further support to "preserve core capabilities that we have built over the years, in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth."

A small number of businesses, such as those in the nightlife industry, may unfortunately not be able to open soon, due to safe management considerations. For these businesses, the Government will help them transition to other activities or ease their exit.

More details on this will be provided by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

#3 Positioning Singapore to seize growth opportunities in a post-COVID-19 world 

This final strategy aims to transform Singapore's economy. To build this momentum, the Government had in February allocated S$8.3bn over three years, to support the country's Transformation and Growth strategy. This has helped firms that had invested in innovation to "nimbly pivot new opportunities" during the crisis, Minister Heng stated.

At the same time, start-ups have also been a contributing factor in the country's economic growth and efforts against COVID-19, he added.

Thus, to continue spurring innovation and entrepreneurship, the Government will set aside up to S$150mn, to enhance the Startup SG Founder programme in phases. Mode details will be provided by the Ministry of Trade and Industry next week. 

Lead image / Screenshot of video posted on DPM Heng's Facebook page