Due to the impact on the business caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many families in Singapore are affected financially. Therefore on last Thursday (26 March), Deputy Prime Minister, Heng Swee Keat, announced in Parliament regarding the details of Resilience Budget. The government announced that they are offering one-off $500 cash assistance to the people who are affected.
As part of the Temporary Relief Fund, lower- to middle-income Singaporeans and permanent residents who are not on ComCare assistance will be able to get immediate financial assistance to help with basic living expenses. The people who are eligible for this Fund are allowed to apply at all social service offices run by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), as well as community centres from 1 to 30 April 2020.
According to TODAY, approximately 3,500 people submitted the applications by 3pm on Wednesday (1 April) and long queues could be seen at Marine Parade Community Club and Nanyang Community Club.
An applicant Mr Muhammad Fadzli told the press that he worries about feeding his two children and sending them to school. Being a single father who had stopped getting income at his workplace, he expressed that $500 may not be enough to support his family for the time being. However, he is still grateful for whatever aid he could get.
The Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol Group Representation Constituency, Mr Zainal Sapari, said that there were around 200 residents applied for the Fund at the Pasir Ris East Community Centre yesterday.
Mr Zainal expressed that many residents had not submitted the relevant documents to support their claims, particularly the people who are self-employed and people who are doing casual jobs.
“We do have self-employed people who have their own home businesses. It’s a bit difficult to prove, where they claim that because of COVID-19, they now have less orders. But they do not have any documents to show that is the case. We also have cases where people are doing casual jobs. When the jobs are available then they are called up, but now they claim that there are fewer jobs available and that it has affected their income. So, I think one of the greatest challenges is verifying the financial situation that they are in,” said Mr Zainal.
After seeing how people were queuing up to apply for the Fund, many netizens commented on the downside of this route of application as it would only create more crowds in the public.
OKay Low and Chong Yanna commented that the small amount of money is not worth creating crowds and possibly another cluster of COVID-19 infection. Another commenter, Ang Teck Leng, expressed that it is contradicting of the authorities to tell people to practise social distancing while on the other hand making the public to queue up to apply for the Fund.
A few other commenters hoped that there could be another way for the people to submit their applications, especially an alternative application via online so that it could cut down on creating unnecessary crowds.
Angela Zhu said that it may be better to let people collect the application forms outside of the Community Centres, and drop the filled-up documents into a designated box set up outside of the offices. She suggested that the forms can be filled up somewhere else since documents and proof of income are still required. It would be able to reduce crowds during the current situation where people should be staying at home and practising social distancing.
Considering that not everyone is eligible to apply for the Temporary Relief Fund, Jeffrey Chan commented that the government should allow every household to withdraw money from their Central Provident Fund (CPF) account until the COVID-19 crisis is over. He mentioned that this is the best solution since the money belongs to the people.
Earlier on 29 March, the Ministry of Manpower revealed that the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) will automatically benefit about 88,000 self-employed individuals. However, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo noted that some Self-Employed Persons (SEP) do not automatically qualify for the scheme have been asked “to be considered”.
Therefore, the Manpower Minister mentioned that the Ministry will consider appeals raised by self-employed and freelancers who do not qualify for the scheme. Although Ms Teo said that she and her MOM colleagues will try their best to address the appeals, so far, there is still no update in regards to the SEPs who do meet the SIRS criteria.