Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat today announced in Parliament that Singaporeans aged 21 and above will be getting a one-off payout of $600.

The payout, which will be known as the Solidarity Payment, consists of a $300 payout from the previously announced Care and Support package which has been brought forward, as well as an additional payout of $300, said Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister. It will cost the Government an additional $1.1 billion.

Other cash payouts under the Care and Support Package that were announced earlier will be brought forward to June, instead of August and September.

These include the remaining $300 or $600 from the higher tiers of the cash payout from the package, the additional $300 payout for each parent with at least one child aged 20 and below this year, and the $100 PAssion Card top-up for Singaporeans aged 50 and above this year.

For the majority of Singaporeans who have provided their bank account details to the Government, the Solidarity Payment will be credited directly into the bank accounts by April 14, said Mr Heng. The rest will receive the payment by cheque, to be issued in stages later, starting from April 30. Eligible citizens will be notified of their payment via SMS from April 15.

In March, Mr Heng had said that the top-up will be done in cash instead to avoid the need to queue at top-up stations.

Not everyone will need these cash payouts, Mr Heng noted.

“I am very encouraged that many have written to me, my ministerial colleagues and MPs, that they do not need the cash payouts, and suggest that we give these to those who need the cash more. I thank fellow Singaporeans for your thoughtfulness,” he said.

He urged those who can to donate to charities on the Giving.sg website or the Community Chest’s Courage Fund, or to directly share it with others.

Others who still need support can approach the Social Service Offices and Community Centres to apply for new schemes such as the Temporary Relief Fund and the upcoming COVID-19 Support Grant, as well as existing ComCare schemes.

The Temporary Relief Fund, which is now open for applications, will give a one-time cash grant of $500 to those who have lost their jobs or income because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Covid-19 Support Grant, which will open for application in May, will provide longer-term financial aid and job support.

Mr Heng also urged Singaporeans to provide emotional and mental health support to their fellow citizens. Amid the new circuit breaker measures, which will see a shutdown of most workplaces and schools in Singapore from this week, Singapore’s community mental health support services will continue to provide care and support through phone consultations, or home visits for those who may need more support.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has also announced that it will set up a National Care hotline to help anyone facing stress or anxiety caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In this time of need, I am glad that mental health professionals and trained volunteers have stepped forward to offer their help in setting up the new hotline,” said Mr Heng.

The ‘circuit breaker’ measures introduced to curb the spread of the coronavirus here will see pre-schools and student care centres suspending general services for a month. In response to parents who have asked if they can get any fee refunds or waivers, the MSF had earlier explained that many service providers would face closure or have to lay off staff if providing refunds were made compulsory.

“Rather than to mandate refunds which help families but hurt businesses, the Government is implementing assistance measures, to help both families and businesses,” a ministry spokesman had said in response to queries.

Here are other highlights from the Solidarity Parliament that you might have missed.

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Firms in all sectors will have 75 per cent of their local employees’ wages subsidised for the month of April

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They will also receive the first payout under the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) this month, instead of next month (May), he told Parliament in announcing a third set of measures to save businesses and jobs from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The wage subsidy applies to the first $4,600 of wages paid this month for each of the more than 1.9 million Singaporean and permanent resident employees.

Mr Heng said this enhanced payout will also be brought forward from May to April to help businesses with their cash flow.

Covid-19 self-employed relief scheme to include those with some employment income, higher property annual value threshold

The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs) will be extended to include self-employed people who also earn a small income from employment, as well as those who live in properties with an annual value of up to $21,000.

Sirs, which was first announced on March 26, will disburse $9,000 in cash over nine months to eligible self-employed people.

Mr Heng on Monday said he would extend the scheme to automatically include self-employed persons who also earn a small income from employment work.

He will also raise the annual value threshold from $13,000 to $21,000, to include those who live in some condominiums and other private properties.

With these enhancements, about 100,000 self-employed persons will be eligible for the scheme—up from 88,000 previously—and will receive three quarterly cash payouts of $3,000 in May, July and October this year.

Images: 123RF.com
Text: Yuen Sin, Joanna Seow, Olivia Ho / The Straits Times