Fortitude Budget 2020 — $800m Covid Support, $100 for utilities, 40,000 SGUnited Jobs and More

Fortitude Budget 2020 - SGUnited, Job Support Scheme, foreign worker levy

Consider yourself fortunate if your job and income did not suffer from the Covid-19  outbreak that has plunged many economies, including Singapore’s, into large-scale uncertainties and recessions. 

And the government passed a fourth Budget on 5 June 2020 to provide more help to those in need. It’s mainly geared towards helping businesses, because we so need the economy to be better. (So that most of us can dine out and drink bubble tea again.)

The Fortitude Budget is a Supplementary Budget worth $33 billion that aims to provide extra help for households and the community to navigate current adversities. It comes after the first three — Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets — announced earlier. 

There will also be funding to frontline agencies to improve their management of Covid-19 cases, and testing and swabbing capacities. 

According to DPM Heng, the Fortitude Budget acts as a “central plank” that will preserve as many jobs as possible to tide over the crisis. 

Here’s an overview of what was covered:

 

For Workers: SGUnited Jobs and traineeships to upskill

  1. More than 40,000 SGUnited Jobs to be created by end-2020 and 21,000 SGUnited Traineeships 

More than 40,000 jobs will be created as part of a new SGUnited Jobs & Skills Package. There will also be 25,000 skills training programmes and traineeships for 30,000 job seekers. 

If you’re looking for a career switch, you can consider early childhood education or healthcare as these are two of the sectors where 15,000 public sector jobs will be created. Whereas the private sector will see about 25,000 jobs created. 

But all these will be no use if we don’t have the right skills to do these jobs right? That’s why we keep hearing about ‘upskilling’ and ‘reskilling’ and the government will increase the capacity of various career conversion initiatives such as business-led training programmes under TeSA Initiative or the TechSkills Accelerator programme, as well as the Place-and-Train conversion programmes under the Adapt and Grow Initiative. 

And you can get a monthly training allowance of $1,200 to study, if you take eligible courses under the SGUnited Skills initiative. 

Fresh grads, we feel your pain. Some of us graduated during the 2009 financial crisis into a bad economy. At least there’s an SGUnited Traineeships initiative to provide 21,000 traineeships for first-time job applicants, and 4,000 slots created as part of a novel SGUnited Mid-Career Traineeships programme. 

The pay isn’t great if compared to graduates last year, but beats having no income at all right? 

  1. Hiring incentive for employers to hire Singaporeans 

One of the main highlights of the Fortitude Budget is hiring incentives for employers to hire local employees who have finished the relevant traineeship programmes. 

Employers who hire qualifying workers under 40 can receive an incentive of up to 20% of the employee’s monthly salary for six months, capped at $6,000 total. 

Employers who hire those aged 40 and above will receive double the incentive of up to 40% of the employee’s salary over six months, with total incentive capped at $12,000. 

Older workers can expect to receive “specially enhanced support” for their traineeships and job applications from the government under this Budget, including the SkillsFuture Credit top-up of S$500 for those aged 40 to 60 in 2020.

 

For households: utilities subsidy, digital support for seniors

1.$100 rebate for utilities bill 

Staying at home during Circuit Breaker has definitely driven our utilities bill up too. 

Households with at least one Singapore citizen and have utilities plans with the Singapore Power (SP) group can receive a one-off $100 Solidarity Utilities Credit, credited to their July or August 2020 utilities bills. All property types with the SP Group will be included in this rebate. 

2.Support for seniors to go digital 

A Seniors Go Digital movement to encourage seniors to embrace technology will introduce individual coaching and small-group learning. Lower-income seniors can qualify for financial support to own digital devices.

 

For businesses: more financial support, foreign worker levy

  1. Enhanced Jobs Support Scheme measures 

While the ‘circuit breaker’ officially ended on 1 June 2020, some businesses, like fitness outlets and cinemas, remain unable to reopen. To help such businesses, the government will continue offering wage support at 75% until the reopening of these businesses or until August 2020, depending on which comes earlier. 

The additional month of wage support will be calculated according to wages paid in August 2020 and will be paid out when businesses get their JSS payouts in October 2020. 

Additionally, the government has decided to reclassify some businesses in the various JSS tiers. For instance, businesses in the built environment sector like construction firms will be entitled to 75% of wage support for wages paid from June to August. 

DPM Heng added that businesses who qualify for back-payments to enhance their previous JSS payouts can receive such retrospective payments by July 2020. These enhanced JSS measures will cost $2.9 billion, whereas the JSS will pay a total of $23.5 billion to all businesses. 

  1. Waiver and rebate for foreign worker levy

Bear in mind that the JSS only applies to firms with local Singaporean employees. In the previous Solidarity Budget, the government mentioned that they would waive the foreign worker levy for the months of April and May 2020 to offset business costs in hiring foreign employees. 

Businesses can also receive a $750 levy rebate for each S Pass or work permit holder. 

For companies that are unable to reopen onsite, such as those in the process, marine/offshore and construction sectors, they can receive a further two months’ worth of levy rebates and waivers. 

These firms can enjoy a 100% levy waiver in June 2020 and 50% in July 2020. The rebates businesses can enjoy are $750 in June and $375 in July respectively.

  1. More rental relief for SMEs and government tenants

Rental costs are really a huge burden on many companies and the Budget will provide $2 billion in cash grants to aid SMEs with their rental costs. 

Taking into account the property tax rebate for 2020, eligible SME tenants in commercial properties will enjoy an offset of another two months worth of rental, whereas eligible SME tenants in office and industrial properties will qualify for one month’s worth of rental offsets. 

Furthermore, commercial and other non-residential tenants of government properties such as hawker centres and market stallholders, will qualify for more rental waivers. 

  1. Financial support for promising start-ups

If you’re the boss of your own ‘promising’ start-up, you may be able to qualify for more financial support too. 

The government announced $4.5 billion worth of loans via schemes such as the Enterprise Financing Scheme and the Temporary Bridging Loan programme, plus $285 million additional financing support via co-investments with the private sector.

  1. Up to $1,500 bonus for stallholders to adopt e-payments

The Fortitude Budget provides support for businesses to digitalise. Stallholders in wet markets, industrial canteens, coffee shops and hawker centres that adopt e-payment methods can receive up to $1,500 of payments, $300 each month over five months. 

6. Up to $5,000 to support businesses’ digitalisation efforts

This Budget will ensure that businesses, beginning from those in the retail and F&B industries, that digitalise via e-commerce and business process solutions, PayNow Corporate or e-invoicing, can receive payouts of up to $5,000. Businesses that utilise advanced solutions can receive further payouts of $5,000. 

 

All in all, that’s a HUGEE amount of money drawn from our reserves over the four Budgets. Now all we hope for is for things to return to normal and everyone to be socially responsible!

What do you think of the Fortitude Budget 2020? Has it helped you? Tell us in the comments below.

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