WP’s Gerald Giam calls for govt to apply “same level of rigour” as COVID-19 Support Grant application to the means testing companies who receive Jobs Support Scheme

The Government is so exacting about the criteria for individual citizens to receive COVID grants. Can it apply the same level of rigour to means testing companies before it gives out such large amounts of support?

The Workers’ Party (WP)’s Aljunied GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Gerald Giam has called for the Government to apply the same level of rigour as Covid-19 Support Grant application to the means testing companies before the Government gives out such large amounts of Jobs Support Scheme (JSS).

In a Facebook post on Wednesday (4 November), Mr Giam gave a recap on his parliamentary questions, in which he highlighted that not all sectors or companies were hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

“In fact, some even grew. (Finance and insurance grew 3.4% y-o-y.) This means that some companies in these sectors would have received large JSS payouts despite not needing or asking for them,” he wrote on his post.

He also pointed out that many residents have had their COVID-19 Support Grant or Self-Employed Persons Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) applications rejected, owing to their income or the annual value of their home exceeding the qualifying cap by “a few hundred or thousand dollars”.

He went on to ask, “The Government is so exacting about the criteria for individual citizens to receive COVID grants. Can it apply the same level of rigour to means testing companies before it gives out such large amounts of support?”

His questions came after the Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong provided a breakdown of JSS payouts by industry sectors that have been made from October 2019 to April 2020.

Speaking on the Finance Minister’s behalf, Mr Wong said in parliament that the amounts of JSS disbursed to Tier 1 sectors – comprising aviation, aerospace, tourism, hospitality, convention, exhibition and build environment – is about S$2.2 billion, benefiting 223,000 employees.

For Tier 2 sectors, which comprise arts and culture, marine and offshore, food services, land transport and retail sectors, the total JSS payouts is about S$1.9 billion, benefiting 317,000 employees.

While the remaining sectors have received S$12.4 billion of JSS payout, in which 1.7 billion employees have benefited from the payouts.

Lawrence Wong: There are objectives for different schemes; JSS is a broad-based wage support scheme to support economy

With such a large amount disbursed under the Scheme, Mr Giam then asked whether the Government could redirect these grants to companies and individuals that really need the support.

“This is especially since these grants come from draws from our past reserves,” he noted.

In response, Mr Wong stressed that there are objectives for different schemes, where some schemes provided to assist the individuals and there are other schemes which are directed towards economic support and in this case, the JSS is a broad-base wage support scheme.

“You may not feel the impact of it directly, but I assure you it is extremely important to have such a scheme to ensure that the companies retain their local workforce. Without such a broad-based wage support scheme, I’m quite sure unemployment rate today would be far higher than they are,” the Minister remarked.

He also mentioned that the JSS has started being differentiated by tiers, adding that the Government will continue to review the Scheme to see how it can be more targeted.

The JSS is a wage subsidy programme intended to help companies to retain and pay their workers amid the coronavirus pandemic that has affected many businesses.

Under the JSS, the Government co-funds between 25 per cent to 75 percent of the first S$4,600 of gross monthly wages paid to each local employee in a 10-month period (up to August 2020) and 10 per cent to 50 per cent of the same in the subsequent 7-month period from September 2020 to March 2021, according to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).

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