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Politics

Self-employed persons to get $9,000 in cash under Supplementary Budget to cope with Covid-19 outbreak

SINGAPORE – Self-employed persons will each receive $9,000 in cash to help tide them over the coronavirus pandemic, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Supplementary Budget speech in Parliament on Thursday (March 26).

Mr Heng said he would set aside $1.2 billion for the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme, which will disburse $1,000 a month for nine months to eligible self-employed persons.

“Over the last few weeks, I received feedback from the labour movement and many self-employed persons calling for stronger support for the self-employed, who have less income security¬†and whose livelihoods may be worse affected during this period of economic uncertainty,” he said.

“This group has been harder to reach, as they work in diverse industries, many occupations, with varying working arrangements. They include taxi and private-hire car drivers, real estate agents, media and art freelancers and sport coaches.”

Mr Heng added that he would also provide sustained support for the self-employed to train and upskill during the downtime amid the Covid-19 economic slowdown.

He will set aside an additional $48 million to extend the Self-Employed Person Training Support Scheme, which was first introduced earlier this month.

Under the initial scheme, Singaporean and permanent resident freelancers receive a training allowance of $7.50 an hour when they undergo eligible courses over the next three months.

Mr Heng said he would raise the hourly allowance to $10 with effect from May 1 and extend the scheme to December this year.

The enhanced allowance is on top of existing training subsidies which cover up to 90 per cent of fees, he said. Trainees will also be able to tap their SkillsFuture credit.

More details on the schemes will be forthcoming from the Ministry of Manpower soon.

“Looking ahead, we will see how we can better support self-employed persons in strengthening their financial security,” said Mr Heng. “We will study this carefully.”

He added that lower-wage workers, including self-employed ones, will have their incomes further augmented under the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme.

During his Budget speech last month, he announced that Singaporeans on Workfare last year would receive a one-off special cash payment amounting to 20 per cent of their payout last year, with a minimum payout of $100.

He will be increasing this payout to $3,000 per recipient.

To qualify for Workfare, Singaporeans must be 35 and older and earn a gross monthly income of not more than $2,300, among other criteria.

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Politics

Govt to offer relief from legal obligations for cancelled large gatherings due to Covid-19

SINGAPORE – People who may have to forfeit deposits because of cancelled large gatherings amid the coronavirus outbreak are set to receive support and relief from legal obligations.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, in unveiling a $48 billion Supplementary Budget on Thursday (March 26), noted that providing relief from legal obligations that have arisen because of the Covid-19 situation is also an “important and complementary” part of help measures.

“It is no fault of theirs that they cannot perform these obligations. For example, people may have paid deposits for a big gathering that now cannot go ahead. It is not their fault that the gathering cannot go ahead,” he said in Parliament.

“Should the deposits be simply forfeited? That won’t be right.”

Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, said that the Government is studying the issue, and that Law Minister K. Shanmugam will present a set of measures next week to deal with this matter.

Major events that were called off or postponed in Singapore in recent months due to the coronavirus outbreak include golfing tournament HSBC Women’s World Championship, IT Show 2020, the Income Eco Run, the annual DBS Marina Regatta and concerts such as those by K-pop group GOT7 and Taiwanese singer Jam Hsiao.

More cancellations may be in store amid tightening rules on large gatherings to reduce the risk of the virus spreading in Singapore.

On March 20, the Ministry of Health said that all events and gatherings with 250 or more people in attendance at any one time must be suspended until June 30. Even if the events are smaller, those attending them will have to be placed a safe and sufficient distance apart.

Measures were stepped up on Wednesday when the Government decided to close all entertainment venues such as bars and cinemas from Thursday (March 26) at 11.59pm until April 30. Religious services are also suspended and establishments such as malls, museums and restaurants must reduce crowd density to stay open.

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Economy

Britain scraps business rates for small firms in 2020

LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak scrapped business rates for small firms in an “exceptional step” to help them deal with the disruption caused by the outbreak of coronavirus.

“Our manifesto promised that for shops, cinemas, restaurants, and music venues with a rateable value of less than 51,000 pounds we would increase their business rates retail discount to 50%,” Sunak told parliament, delivering the annual budge.

“Today I can go further and take the exceptional step for this coming year of abolishing their business rates altogether.” (Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Kate Holton)

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