Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Heng Swee Keat has made some important announcements in the third round of Budget measures to tackle the Covid-19 situation. Major development being that firms in all sectors will have 75 percent of their local employees' wages subsidised for the month of April. They will also receive the first payout under the enhanced Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) this month, instead of next month, to help with cash flow.
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.
The payouts were to be in three tranches in May, July and October, with the monthly wage cap raised from $3,600 to $4,600. The higher support for April is temporary, and the scheme will revert to normal levels beyond that.
The enhanced scheme was one among many additional measures that were announced to help Singapore to cope with the disruption stemming from the spread of COVID-19, which he termed the Solidarity Budget.
"The aim of this strong support is to directly reduce firms' wage costs, to help them retain their workers. I expect firms to make use of this Jobs Support Scheme to continue paying your workers and refrain from putting workers on no-pay leave during this period, or worse, retrenching them." said DPM Heng.
"We will monitor the situation carefully together with our tripartite partners, and take action where needed." added Heng.
Most workplaces, apart from those providing essential services or in key economic sectors, will be closed for about a month from tuesday in order to break the chain of transmission of Covid-19.
But firms should still retain and pay their workers, emphasised Heng.
The additional subsidy from the temporary enhancement will first be calculated based on wages paid in October 2019, and later adjusted based on wages paid in April 2020. This means that employers which do not pay their staff wages this month will not benefit from the payout.
Heng has further clarified that the salary ceiling, which is based on the median wage level of full-time employed residents, does not mean that workers earning beyond that amount do not qualify. It means that regardless of how much they earn, the maximum subsidy for their pay will be 75 percent of $4,600, which is $3,450.
Firms on Giro and PayNow will start receiving the first payout next week, while those which are not will receive their payouts by cheque, starting about a week later.
To further ease labour costs during these four weeks, employers will receive a foreign worker levy rebate of $750 for each work permit or S Pass holder, based on previous levies paid in 2020, said Heng.
This will be paid out as early as April 21, and is to help them pay and take care of the upkeep of their workers, and prepare their workforce to restart when the circuit breaker is lifted, he added.
"Many employers also hire foreign workers on work permits and S Passes. In the same spirit, employers should take care of these workers who will also face difficulties during this circuit breaker period."
He also said that the foreign worker levy due in April will be waived, which he first announced in a Facebook post last Saturday.
"The Government recognizes that firms have been paying foreign worker levies in normal times. So in these exceptional times, we are temporarily redirecting resources back to the firms, to enable them to provide support for their foreign workers," added Heng.
Not only Singapore, governments across the globe are not leaving any stone unturned to manage the situation with relief packages, compensations and schemes. Here is a look at what some reliefs that governments have announced for their workforce in the wake of the growing COVID-19 pandemic: How governments are responding to COVID-19.