Sunday 30 June 2013

Two million Singaporeans to get letters on Budget 2013 benefits in July 2013

By Debbie Lee, The Straits Times, 29 Jun 2013

TWO million Singaporeans will receive letters from the Government from Monday informing them of the benefits they will receive under Budget 2013, the Finance Ministry said yesterday.

These include GST Vouchers in the form of:
- Cash payments of between $100 and $250 for citizens whose annual income is at most $24,000 and living in homes with an annual value of $21,000 and less.
- Medisave payments of between $150 and $450 for citizens aged 65 and older living in homes with an annual value of $21,000 and less.
- U-Save utility rebates of between $45 and $65 for HDB households.

A one-off extra payment of GST Vouchers for all three categories will also be given this year. For example, a Singaporean who receives $250 in GST Vouchers in cash payment will get another $250.

In addition, all Singaporeans aged 45 and older will get a $200 top-up to their Central Provident Fund Medisave accounts.

The vouchers and top-ups will help citizens and Singaporean households cope with the rise in the cost of living, the ministry said in its statement.

It also said that starting next month, the U-Save rebates will be given quarterly (July, October, January and April) instead of twice a year.

The amount given remains the same.

The vouchers and the one-off payment will cost the Government about $1.2 billion. People will automatically receive their GST Voucher payouts on Aug 1.

Those who have not signed up for previous government payouts will need to do so by Dec 31 in order to receive the latest payouts.

Singaporeans plan to save, invest GST payout: Poll
Money will also be used by some to pay for groceries and necessities
By Audrey Tan And Lee Jian Xuan, The Straits Times, 2 Aug 2013

MOST Singaporeans are planning to save or invest the cash payouts of up to $500 they received yesterday under the GST Voucher scheme, a Straits Times poll has found.

Some 1.4 million people from lower- and middle-income households stood to get the payments of $100 or $250, plus a one-off special payment of the same amount.

More than half of the 80 Singaporeans polled by The Straits Times said they would be putting the money into personal savings accounts or investment plans.

Financial adviser Janice Pung, 23, said: "I'm moving to a new job soon so I'm saving half and putting the other half into a blue-chip stock that I've been buying."

A delighted Madam Ngang Jee, 91, said: "For the past four years, the money I received was only enough to cover my bills. Now I finally have some excess to put into my savings account."

But insurance agent Daniel Govindan, 24, said: "The $500 I received is too little to put into an investment plan so I intend to use it for my emergency cash fund."

In general, eligibility for the benefits under the permanent GST Voucher scheme is based on three factors: assessable income, annual value of homes and age.

In order to qualify for the payout, Singaporeans must not have an assessable income exceeding $24,000 or live in a home with a yearly estimated market rental of more than $21,000.

Other Singaporeans told The Straits Times they would be spending the cash on necessities for their families.

Administrative officer Pat Ho, 54, and Mr Tan Kay Young, 56, who sells souvenirs, said they would use it for groceries and household expenses.

"I am using the money to pay for my monthly household expenses," said administrative assistant Mary Chan, 62. "My family does not earn so much, so whatever we get will help."

The GST Voucher scheme also includes benefits such as Medisave payments and U-Save utility rebates. While U-Save rebates of between $45 and $65 are paid quarterly to Housing Board-dwellers, Medisave payments are only for citizens aged above 65 and living in homes with an annual rental value of less than $21,000.

But as part of this year's Budget, Singaporeans above 45 will enjoy a $200 top-up to their Central Provident Fund Medisave Accounts this year.

People eligible for more than one form of GST Vouchers can claim all the benefits they qualify for, though many of those eligible for only Medisave payments felt that more can be done to help them cope with rising costs.

Receptionist Sng Bee Keow, 58, said dental health is an issue of concern. She added: "Unless Medisave can be used for dental check-ups or health screenings, cash would be more useful."

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