Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on August 17 announced additional support worth $8 billion in the fight against the fallout of Covid-19. He also reiterated that the government will “continue to protect jobs and create new opportunities” for workers in Singapore, to tackle the worst economic crisis seen. 

See also: $8 bil support will cushion extent of job losses, but may still not be enough, economists say

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has launched several schemes to help employees retain their livelihoods, including the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), which was launched at the first Budget 2020 on February 18.

The scheme currently covers the wages of employed workers up to August 2020, and will now cover wages paid up to March 2021, says Heng in a live telecast.

So far, the scheme has granted over $16 billion in payouts to over two million local workers in some 150,000 firms.

To date, the government has announced some $92.9 billion in total across four budgets since March 2020.

However, the scheme cannot be “sustained at current levels”, as it draws heavily on the country’s reserves, warned Heng.

As such, support for wages will be adjusted based on the projected recovery of different sectors.

For the hardest-hit sectors such as aerospace, aviation, and tourism, related firms will receive support at 50% wage levels for seven more months.

Another 50% of wage support will go to the built environment sector for an additional two months. Thereafter, the sector will enjoy a lower 30% support for wages till March 2021, in line with the phased resumption of construction activities.

Less affected sectors such as the arts and entertainment, food services, land transport, marine and offshore, and retail sectors will receive 30% in wage support till March 2021, as well.

For the large majority of the remaining sectors, Heng says the government will provide 10% support for another seven months.

Sectors that are doing well, including the biomedical sciences, financial services, and information and communications technology (ICT) will receive 10% support for employee’s wages till December 2020.

“With the JSS extension, most businesses will receive wage support for 17 months to help them retain as many workers as possible,” he says.

“Over these months, JSS support will range from 10% to 75%. Even at 10% support, the payouts cover more than half of employers’ CPF contributions. This ensures that we continue to build up the CPF savings of our workers during the crisis,” he adds.

While he urges businesses to make “full use” of the additional support to retain and upskill their employees, he also hopes that firms that are coping well, return or donate their JSS payouts.

“Besides the JSS, businesses can also tap on other existing schemes, such as the enhanced Enterprise Financing Scheme and Temporary Bridging Loan Programme which are available until March 2021,” says Heng.

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