Monday, 2 March 2020

Budget 2020 goodies: Helping Singaporeans handle impact of coronavirus outbreak

$1.6 billion package unveiled in Budget 2020 aims to help households weather period of uncertainty
By Tan Ee Lyn, Senior Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 1 Mar 2020

A Filipino band used to belt out hits every night at a street-side bar at Quality Hotel Marlow in Balestier Road, a mid-range inn popular with tourists from China.

Its driveway was never seen without a tour coach or two and groups of Chinese holidaymakers huddling together, chatting and smoking away animatedly.

But the hotel is now eerily still, its bar dark, and the music has stopped.

"We are very badly affected (by the drop in the number of hotel guests due to the coronavirus outbreak)," said a staff member.

I peered inside what used to be a lively, even rowdy dining room. There was nobody.

The Smith Street hawker centre in Chinatown is yet another ghost town. Many of the stalls have been shut for weeks. Some of those brave enough to stay open rely on regulars who call in to make bookings.

"Everyone is so scared because we are Chinatown," hissed the boss of one zi char stall, which has been around for at least 60 years.

She was referring to how people are avoiding anything remotely Chinese because of the association with the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan city in China.

She is reporting a fall in business of about 30 per cent.

Looking at all the shuttered stalls, one cannot help but wonder how much the virus outbreak must be hurting people, particularly those in the service and tourism-related sectors. Service workers interviewed have spoken of reduced work hours and pay cuts.

A $1.6 billion care and support package was unveiled in the Budget on Feb 18 to help tide households over in this period of uncertainty.

Here are the details of the package:


All Singaporeans aged 21 and above will get a one-off cash payout of $300, $200 or $100, depending on their income (see table on one-off cash payout).

Those who own more than one property will receive $100, regardless of their income.

Parents with one or more Singaporean children aged 20 and below this year will each receive an additional $100.

Citizens will be notified by August of their eligibility and the cash amount. The payout will take place by September.


Singaporeans who were 35 years or above and received Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) payments last year will be eligible for a Workfare Special Payment (WSP) this year.

These include employees and self-employed people.

The WSP will be 20 per cent of the total annual WIS payment received for work done last year, with a minimum payment of $100 (see table on workfare).

WSP for the self-employed is two-thirds the amount for employees.

People with disabilities aged below 35 last year and who meet WIS eligibility criteria will also receive a WSP of between $100 and $300 based on work done last year.

The payment will be given in cash in November and will provide additional support for low-wage workers and self-employed people aged 35 and above last year.


All Singaporeans aged 50 and above this year will receive a $100 top-up in May to their PAssion Cards from May 2020.

These include Merdeka Generation seniors who received a $100 top-up under the Merdeka Generation Package last year, as well as pioneers.

Eligible citizens will receive a letter of notification by April 2020, when more details will be released.

The top-up can be used to pay for groceries, activities and facilities at community centres and clubs, and any other EZ-Link merchants.

Eligible Singaporeans aged 50 to 59 this year and who do not have a PAssion Card may sign up online at for a complimentary PAssion Card from today.

They can also visit their nearest community centre or club for assistance.


Singaporeans aged 21 and above who live in one-or two-room Housing Board flats and do not own more than one property will receive $100 in grocery vouchers this year and next year.

Grocery vouchers can be used at participating supermarkets. FairPrice, Giant and Sheng Siong have agreed to accept these vouchers.

More details will be released at a later date.


Eligible HDB households will receive double their regular GST Voucher (GSTV) through a one-off GSTV - U-Save Special Payment in the 2020 financial year (from next month to March next year).

Eligible households with five or more members will receive an additional GSTV - U-Save rebate, which will work out to 2½ times their regular GSTV - U-Save in FY2020 (see table on GST Voucher).

Households whose members own more than one property are not eligible for GSTV - U-Save.

Eligible households will receive their regular GSTV - U-Save over four quarters in April, July and October this year and January next year.

On top of the regular GSTV - U-Save, eligible households will receive their GSTV - U-Save Special Payment over two quarters, in April and July this year, and eligible larger households with five or more members will receive their additional GSTV - U-Save rebate over two quarters, in October this year and January next year.

Household members refer to individuals living at the same residence (as reflected on their identity cards), and who are related by blood, marriage, or legal adoption (for example, spouse, parents, children, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, and in-laws).

Domestic helpers, unrelated tenants, godparents and friends are not considered household members.


The Government will provide a grant of $10 million over two years to self-help groups.

It will provide another grant of $20 million to community development councils. This will help to fund community programmes to support needy households.


Eligible Singaporean households living in HDB flats will receive rebates to offset between 11/2 and 31/2 months of service and conservancy charges (S&CC) over the 2020 financial year (see table on service and conservancy charges rebate).

Eligible households will receive their S&CC rebate over four quarters, in April, July and October this year and January next year.

Households with a member owning or having any interest in a private property, or which have rented out the entire flat, are not eligible for the S&CC rebate.


With this slate of measures, a couple in their early 30s with a young child and living in a three-room HDB flat with a combined monthly income of $4,500 can expect to receive $1,280, or $106 a month, to help cover household expenses.

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