DPM Heng Swee Keat rounds up Budget 2020 debate in Parliament. (Image source: Screenshot of CNA video)

All Singaporeans aged 21 and above will receive a one-off payout of S$600 to help households manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (6 April).
This is an enhancement to the earlier payout announced in February of between S$100 and S$300 for every adult citizen in the country. In March, the amount was increased to between S$300 and S$900. The payouts were due to be distributed between August to September.
However, the announcement by Mr Heng explained that the S$300 payout announced last month has been brought forward to April and topped up with another S$300 for a total of S$600 per adult. This has been termed the “Solidarity Payment”. The remaining payouts will also be pulled forward to June.
These additional payouts will cost the government an additional S$1.1 billion, said Mr Heng.
Basically, every adult in Singapore will receive S$600 in April. Beyond that, anyone who qualified for the highest tier can expect another S$300 or S$600 in June.
Additionally, Mr Heng explained that the S$300 payout for parents with at least one child aged 20 and as well as the S$100 PAssion Card top of for citizens aged 50 and above will also be paid up in June. Mr Heng further noted that the top-ups will be paid in cash instead, to prevent long queues at top-up stations.
For the Solidarity Payments, Singaporeans who have provided their bank account details to the government will have the payout credited directly into their accounts on 14 April while everyone else will receive their payouts by cheques issues starting from 30 April. Eligible citizens will receive a payment notification via SMS starting 15 April.
Mr Heng also noted that not everyone will need these payouts. He said, “I am very encouraged that many have written to me, my ministerial colleagues and MPs, that they do not need the cash payouts, and suggest that we give these to those who need the cash more. I thank fellow Singaporeans for your thoughtfulness.”
Mr Heng then urged those who can afford it to donate to charities on the Giving.sg website or the Community Chest’s Courage Fund, or even directly to those who need the held.
As for people who need extra assistance in these troubled times, they can reach out to the Social Service Offices and Community Centres to apply for new schemes from existing ComCare schemes to Temporary Relief Fund and the upcoming COVID-19 Support Grant.
People can now start applying for the Temporary Relief Fund which gives a one-time cast payment of S$500 to people who have lost their income or jobs due to the pandemic. As for the COVID-19 Support Grant, the applications will be opened in May. This grant will provide longer-term financial aid and job support.

Emotional and mental support also available

Beyond financial support, Mr Heng had also encouraged citizens to provide mental and emotional support to their fellow Singaporeans, noting that the new circuit breaker measures which will see a shutdown of workplaces and schools starting tomorrow. Mr Heng said that community mental health support services will continue to provide support via phone or home visits for those who need it.
A National Care hotline will also be set up to help anyone facing stress or anxiety during this pandemic, led by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), noted Mr Heng.
“In this time of need, I am glad that mental health professionals and trained volunteers have stepped forward to offer their help in setting up the new hotline,” he noted.

Parents ask for refunds in the face of pre-school closures

These circuit breaker measures announced by the multi-ministry task force last Friday (3 April) include the closure of schools as they transition to fully home-based learning, the suspension of general services at pre-schools and student care centres, and the closure of workplaces.
When parents, who heard about the suspension of services of student care centres and pre-schools, they asked if they could get a refund or waiver on fees. The MSF explained that operators would be challenged with having to lay off staff or closing down altogether if refunds were made compulsory.
“Rather than to mandate refunds which help families but hurt businesses, the Government is implementing assistance measures, to help both families and businesses,” said a ministry spokesman in response to queries.

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