As the number of COVID-19 cases in Singapore approach 4-digit figures and the government implements stricter social distancing measures to combat the spread of the disease, more measures have been introduced to support those affected by the pandemic.
On the back of the Resilience Budget announced on Thursday (26 March), here are some key developments over the weekend.
Eligible Self-Employed Persons (SEPs) to receive cash payouts totalling S$9,000
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has introduced a Self-Employed Person (SEP) Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) to support eligible SEPs with less means, and tide them over this period of economic uncertainty.
Under the scheme, eligible SEPs will receive a total of S$9,000 in three quarterly cash payouts of S$3,000 each in May, July and October 2020.
The SIRS is expected to benefit about 88,000 SEPs as a result of the broadened eligibility criteria. Currently, about 50,000 SEPs receive Workfare payouts annually, and will be eligible for SIRS. Due to the extraordinary circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the MOM has broadened the eligibility criteria beyond Workfare to enable more SEPs to qualify for SIRS.
Singaporean SEPs who meet all of the following criteria are eligible for SIRS:
- Started work as an SEP on or before 25 March 2020;
- Do not also earn income as an employee;
- Earn a Net Trade Income of no more than $100,000;
- Live in a property with an annual value of no more than $13,000; and
- Do not own two or more properties.
For married Singaporean SEPs, the following additional criteria apply:
- The individual and spouse together do not own two or more properties; and
- The Assessable Income of his/her spouse does not exceed $70,000.
Singaporean SEPs aged 37 and over in 2020 who declared positive SEP income to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) / CPF Board (CPFB) for Work Year 2018 do not need to apply. They will be automatically notified of their eligibility via letter and SMS, and will receive the first SIRS payout automatically in May 2020.
Other eligible SEPs may apply for SIRS. More details on SIRS and the application process will be released at a later date.
Virtual Career Fair with more than 2,200 temporary jobs that are immediately available
As part of the Resilience Budget to create more opportunities for jobseekers and workers affected by the COVID-19 situation, MOM and Workforce Singapore (WSG), in collaboration with the Public Service Division (PSD), have launched the #SGUnited Jobs Initiative.
To make SGUnited Jobs opportunities easily accessible for jobseekers and workers, WSG will launch a series of SGUnited Jobs Virtual Career Fairs (VCF), MOM announced in a LinkedIn post.
The aim of the VCF are:
- To match jobseekers to jobs, including new ones created to help fight COVID-19.
- Help businesses with short-term manpower needs
- Help recruit for eventual business recovery
The first VCF will run till 12 April 2020 and will feature more than 2,200 temporary jobs that are immediately available.
In addition to the VCF, a SGUnited Traineeship Programme has also been launched. The programme is applicable for graduates from ITE, polytechnics, universities, and other educational institutions. It expects to see up to 8,000 traineeships for this year.
For the trainees, it aims to boost employability, gain valuable work experience and develop their skills professionally even during a weaker hiring climate. Whereas, for employers, it aims to provide employers with access to fresh talents to support business needs and allows them to tap on Government support during the traineeship period.
During the training period, trainees will receive a training allowance co-funded by Government and participating companies.
Two new schemes to support lower- to middle-income Singaporeans
On the back of the Resilience Budget, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has put in place two new schemes to support lower- to middle-income Singaporeans who are financially impacted by the COVID-19 situation, and who are not on ComCare assistance. They are:
#1 Temporary Relief Fund
The Temporary Relief Fund provides immediate financial assistance to lower- to middle-income Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents who have lost their jobs or faced an income loss of at least 30% due to COVID-19, and require urgent help with basic living expenses. Eligible applicants will receive one-off cash assistance of $500.
The Temporary Relief Fund will be open for applications at all SSOs and Community Centres (CCs) from 1 to 30 April 2020.
#2 COVID-19 Support Grant
With the aim of helping them get back on their feet and achieve stability, the COVID-19 Support Grant will provide help to lower- to middle-income Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and continue to face challenges securing employment.
From 1 May 2020, the Grant will provide eligible Singaporeans $800 a month for three months, if they also commit to receive employment and training support from Workforce Singapore (WSG) and Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).
Recipients of the COVID-19 Support Grant who continue to need support in the longer term will be assessed for ComCare assistance.
The Courage Fund: A central donation platform for Singaporeans to contribute in fighting COVID-19
Beyond the two measures introduced by the Resilience Budget, Singaporeans and corporations have also rallied around those impacted by COVID-19 through their generous giving to The Courage Fund. The Courage Fund is a central donation platform for Singaporeans to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. To date, over $5.6 million has been raised for this purpose.
The Courage Fund will help:
- Dependents of those who succumb to the virus;
- Healthcare workers, frontline workers and community volunteers who contract the virus in the course of duty; and
- Lower-income families experiencing financial difficulties as a result of their family member(s) contracting the virus, or having to serve Quarantine Orders, Stay-Home Notices or mandatory Leave of Absence (LOA).
Application details will be available on NCSS website by end-March, and eligible lower-income households can also apply at the SSOs from 6 April 2020.
More flexible and accessible ComCare
Apart from that, since the onset of COVID-19, support for low-income households has been stepped up. MSF's Social Service Offices (SSOs) have proactively reached out to more than 6,400 Singaporeans who may be in need of ComCare assistance or other forms of support, as a result of being quarantined or directed to stay at home. Outreach initiatives include checking in with over 360 current or former ComCare clients who are under quarantine or Stay-Home Notice, to see if they require any assistance.
For those under quarantine or Stay-Home Notice who require ComCare assistance, the application process has been simplified so that they need not apply for ComCare in person. ComCare applicants need only submit supporting documents through email or via mobile phone (e.g. WhatsApp).
MSF is also working with community partners to support their other needs. For instance, SSOs coordinate with grassroots volunteers to help purchase and deliver groceries to Persons Under Quarantine and Stay-Home Notice who do not have family, friends or neighbours to turn to.
From April 2020, households newly placed on ComCare Short-to-Medium Term Assistance will receive the assistance over a duration of at least six months, which would be longer for most households. The longer ComCare duration will provide greater peace of mind to families and individuals whose livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19, as they seek out job or retraining opportunities.
Entry approval required for all long-term pass holders
With the heightened risk of importation of COVID-19 cases into Singapore, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) will implement additional precautionary measures for all Long-Term Pass (LTP) holders who are entering or returning to Singapore.
These include holders of the Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP), the Student’s Pass (STP), as well as those who have been granted In-Principle Approval (IPA) for a LTP. These measures are effective 29 March 2020, 11.59pm.
LTVP holders and those with IPA for LTVP to seek approval from ICA
STP holders and those with IPA for STP to seek approval from MOE
All existing STP holders, and those who have been granted IPA for STP, who are planning to enter or return to Singapore must obtain MOE’s permission before they commence their journey to Singapore. MOE will take into consideration the course in which the student is enrolled, and prioritise entry approval for those studying in publicly-funded Institutes of Higher Learning. STP holders, and those who have been granted IPA for STP, should submit their application to their respective educational institution, which will then forward their application to MOE.
Approval letter of entry required to clear immigration
If permission is granted, applicants will be issued an approval letter of entry by ICA for LTVP holders, or by MOE for STP holders, that is valid for two weeks. They must produce this approval letter of entry to airline staff upon check-in at the departure airport, and to the immigration officer at the checkpoint upon arrival in Singapore.
Applicants should not make travel plans to Singapore until approval has been given by ICA/MOE. If they arrive in Singapore without the approval letter of entry from ICA/MOE, ICA will not allow them to clear immigration, and will require them to fly out of Singapore within 48 hours, at their own cost. If they fail to comply, ICA will cancel their pass or rescind their IPA.
MOM requirements still stand: MOM-issued LTVP holders will have to obtain MOM’s approval for entry
Currently, the MOM requires all new and existing work pass holders and their dependents, planning to enter/return to Singapore from any country, to obtain the Ministry’s approval before commencing their journey. MOM-issued LTVP holders will have to obtain MOM’s approval for entry.
Stay-Home Notice and health declarations
In line with prevailing Stay-Home Notice (SHN) requirements, all travellers who are granted entry approval will be placed on a 14-day SHN upon arrival in Singapore. In addition to the entry approval, travellers are also reminded to submit a health and travel declaration via the SG Arrival Card (SGAC) e-Service prior to their arrival. They will be required to provide their health status and recent travel history, as well as personal particulars and contact details. Anyone who makes a false or misleading declaration will be liable to prosecution under the Infectious Diseases Act. The penalty for providing false or misleading information is a fine of up to S$10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months. For subsequent offence(s), the penalty is a fine up to S$20,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months.
The Government will not hesitate to take strong action against those who make false declarations, as well as those who do not comply with the requirements of the SHN. Regular checks will be conducted through surprise house visits and phone calls, as well as leveraging web-based and mobile application surveillance solutions, to ensure compliance so that the well-being of the community is not put at risk.
Singapore Citizen gets passport cancelled for breaching SHN
The ICA has cancelled the passport of a 53-year-old male Singapore Citizen, Goh Illya Victor, for breaching the Stay-Home Notice (SHN) requirements. The case has also been referred to the Ministry of Health (MOH) for investigation.
According to a press release by the ICA, Goh had travelled from Singapore to Batam, Indonesia, on 3 March 2020, and returned to Singapore via Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on 19 March 2020. Upon his entry, he was served with an SHN due to his recent travel history to Indonesia.
However, he then decided to return to Indonesia on the same day, despite ICA officers warning him that he would breach the SHN requirements and could face penalties.
On 24 March 2020, he returned to Singapore from Indonesia through the Singapore Cruise Centre, and was issued with a second 14-day SHN from 24 March 2020 to 7 April 2020.
Goh has displayed irresponsible conduct by not complying with the requirements of his first SHN, departing Singapore on 19 March 2020 and then returning to Singapore on 24 March 2020. In view of the wilful breach, ICA has cancelled his passport and referred the case to MOH for investigation into his breach of SHN requirements.
The Government had announced that from 16 March 2020, 11.59 pm, all travellers (including Singapore Residents, Long Term Pass holders, and short-term visitors) entering Singapore with recent travel history to ASEAN countries within the last 14 days will be issued with a 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN).
ICA reiterates that it will not hesitate to take strong enforcement action against those who fail to comply with the SHN requirements.
Besides cancellation of their immigration facilities, they can also be prosecuted under the Infectious Diseases Act and its Regulations, and face a fine of up to $10,000, or up to six months’ imprisonment, or both.
ICA reminds all travellers to ensure that they submit complete and accurate travel declarations.
From 27 March 2020, all travellers arriving in Singapore, including Singapore residents, must submit a health and travel declaration before proceeding with immigration clearance. Travellers will be required to provide their health status and recent travel history, as well as personal particulars and contact details.
Anyone who makes a false or misleading declaration will be liable to prosecution under the Infectious Diseases Act. The penalty for providing false or misleading information is a fine of up to S$10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months. For subsequent offence(s), the penalty is a fine up to S$20,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months.
For non-Singaporeans, we may additionally take other administrative actions such as revocation of, or shortening the validity of permits and passes to remain in Singapore.
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