Employment support program extended to retailers, gymnasiums and the arts sector


SINGAPORE: More sectors affected by the latest COVID-19 restrictions will benefit from wage subsidies under the employment support program, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said on Friday (May 28th).

Mr Wong, who is also co-chair of the multi-ministerial COVID-19 task force, said the tougher measures had helped tackle the surge in community cases.

“Our assessment is that the measures are working and that they are having an effect in controlling the spread of the virus,” he said. There is no need for more stringent restrictions, he added.

Singapore entered Phase 2 (heightened alert) on May 16 amid rising COVID-19 cases in the community. The tightened restrictions will last until June 13.

Group sizes for gatherings have been reduced to two people and on-site meals at all F&B outlets have been banned. People are also expected to work from home by default during this time.

READ: COVID-19 measures ‘working’ for now, no further tightening planned: Lawrence Wong

READ: COVID-19 grant to provide one-time payment to workers suffering loss of income, on leave without pay during heightened alert period

When the measures were announced on May 14, the government increased the employment support subsidy for catering businesses from 10% to 50% for wages paid until June 2021.

The program provides grants to businesses for the first S $ 4,600 of gross monthly wages paid to local employees.

The 50 percent wage support has now been extended to sectors and companies where most, if not all, of their activities are suspended during the heightened alert period.

This includes gyms, fitness studios, performing arts organizations, and arts education centers. The Employment Support Grant replaces an operating grant for gyms and fitness studios announced earlier.

Sectors that are not required to suspend operations but are significantly affected by the enhanced measures will receive 30 percent wage subsidies from May 16 to June 13.

These include businesses in the retail industry, relevant personal care services, museums, art galleries, historic sites, cinemas, indoor playgrounds and other family entertainment centers. . Certain retailers like supermarkets, convenience stores, and online retailers will not be eligible.

The payment, based on salaries paid between April and June of this year, will be disbursed in September, the finance ministry (MOF) said.

Companies that put local employees on mandatory unpaid leave of absence or terminate them will not be eligible for employment support payments for those employees.

“I would encourage companies to make full use of the enhanced JSS to retain and pay their workers during this period, and to use the lull period to invest in workers through training and skills upgrading programs,” he said. Mr Wong said.

RENTAL SUPPORT

Qualifying small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and non-profit organizations (with revenues of S $ 100 million or less) on certain commercial properties will also benefit from rental relief.

These include businesses in properties such as hotels, serviced apartments, MICE locations, ferry terminals or cruise centers, tourist attractions, cinemas, schools, sanitary or medical buildings and cinemas.

Government-owned commercial properties will receive one month’s rent relief for qualifying tenants. Tenants will be required to pass on the received rent relief to eligible subtenants, if applicable.

Some private commercial properties have granted rental waivers or discounts to tenants, the MOF said. To provide additional support, Singapore’s Inland Revenue Authority will provide half a month of rent relief in cash to eligible tenants under a new rental support program. Payment will be disbursed from mid-August.

Those who run a small business or non-profit organization on their own property will also be eligible for cash payment.

READ: Group size drops from 5 to 2, dining suspended as Singapore tightens COVID-19 measures

Hawkers and coffee vendors who are tenants from government agencies already receive one month’s rent waiver. The authorities also encouraged business owners to “support their F&B tenants during this period”.

The costs of table cleaning and centralized dishwasher have also been eliminated for around 6,000 sellers of cooked food in hawking centers managed by the National Environment Agency or by designated operators.

Mr. Wong also announced assistance to people suffering from loss of income in the form of a one-time grant.

Those who were put on involuntary unpaid leave for at least a month or who suffered a loss of income of at least 50 percent for at least a month between May 16 and June 30 may apply for the grant.

The package of support measures will cost the government S $ 800 million, which will be funded through reallocation of development spending.

Mr Wong said the package was “not of the same magnitude” as previous support measures because most parts of the economy are still functioning.

“Our circumstances today are very different from those of last year. And under such circumstances, I don’t think we should go to the president to ask permission to draw on our past reserves,” he said. he declares.

“In fact, we should expect to encounter situations like this from time to time, where we experience an occasional outbreak of cases in our community, and then we will have to temporarily tighten the restrictions to control the spread of the virus.

“We will therefore have to learn to adapt to such situations, using our own resources rather than drawing on our past reserves.”

The government does not plan to require an additional drawdown on past reserves at this point, the MOF said. Mr Wong will table a supplementary appropriations bill at the next session of parliament in July for the reallocation.

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