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COVID-19: Extra $2.9b for firms to keep workers employed – Heng Swee Keat

Amir Hussain
Senior Reporter
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat delivering the first Budget on 18 February 2020. (PHOTO: YouTube screengrab)

SINGAPORE — The government is allocating an additional $2.9 billion to support firms to retain and pay their workers under the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (26 May) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Coming out of the circuit breaker, businesses will not be able to return immediately to pre-circuit breaker levels of operations. Hence, I reviewed the original JSS schedule and will make three enhancements to the scheme,” said Heng in Parliament during his fourth Budget speech this year.

Firstly, the JSS will cover an extra month of support - to cover wages paid in August. Firms will receive the additional month of support in the October payout.

Secondly, firms that cannot resume operations immediately after the circuit breaker will continue to get wage support at 75 per cent until August or when they are allowed to re-open, whichever is earlier. Such firms include retail outlets, cinemas, fitness studios and gyms.

Thirdly, the Government will refine the classification of firms in the different JSS tiers. The level of wage support for firms in sectors which are more severely impacted will rise from the previous 25 per cent to either 50 or 75 per cent, said Heng.

For instance, firms in the retail, and marine and offshore sectors will now get 50 per cent wage support. Meanwhile, firms in the aerospace sector including those in maintenance, repair, and operations, will now receive 75 per cent support.

Eligible firms will receive a back-payment to top up their previous JSS payouts to the higher level of support, with the retrospective payment made by July.

With the enhancements, the JSS will comprise $23.5 billion in total over the four Budgets to support the wages of 1.9 million local employees over 10 months.

“I urge leaders in our industries to use this additional cushion to retain your staff, speed up adaptation, and move towards a viable business model,” said Heng.

“Please make full use of the schemes available to train workers and upgrade your corporate capabilities. Time is running out, please act fast.”

Heng also thanked firms which have not been badly affected by the pandemic that have returned or donated their JSS payouts, and encouraged other firms that are able to do so as well.

(ILLUSTRATION: Enhancements to Jobs Support Scheme under Fortitude Budget/Ministry of Finance)

Foreign worker levy waiver and rebate

The government will also extend the foreign worker levy waiver and rebate for up to two months for affected businesses which will not be allowed to resume operations on-site immediately after the circuit breaker is lifted on 2 June. These businesses include those in the construction, marine and offshore, and process sectors.

The waiver and rebate were provided during the circuit breaker period to support businesses employing migrant workers which had to suspend operations.

Heng said the waiver will be 100 per cent in June and 50 per cent in July, while the rebate will be $750 in June and $375 in July.

Deferring rise in CPF rates for seniors

The government will also defer the planned increase in CPF contribution rates for senior workers by one year until 1 January 2022, to help businesses manage costs, said Heng.

Similarly, the CPF Transition Offset scheme will be deferred until after the higher contribution rates take effect.

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