Friday, 17 April 2020

Jobs Support Scheme: First payout of $7 billion will help to cover wages of over 1.9 million local employees in Singapore from 15 April 2020

More than 140,000 employers will get these payouts to save jobs under the Jobs Support Scheme announced at Budget 2020, and further enhanced at the Resilience and Solidarity Budgets
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 Apr 2020

Distribution of the first tranche of payouts to employers under the Jobs Support Scheme has begun, said the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) in a joint statement yesterday.

A total of $7 billion, which will go to more than 140,000 employers, has been set aside to help cover the wages of over 1.9 million local employees here.

The wage subsidies are intended to save jobs as enhanced safe distancing measures take effect, effectively requiring most workers to telecommute and those in non-essential services to cease operations for one month to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

They come several days after Singaporeans received the $600 Solidarity Payment to help them through the current crisis.

The Jobs Support Scheme was first announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Feb 18 Budget speech, and enhanced in the Resilience and Solidarity budgets - collectively known as the supplementary budget - on March 26 and April 6 respectively.

Initially, the scheme pledged to offset 8 per cent of the wages of every local employee in Singapore, up to a monthly cap of $3,600, for three months. This was expected to cost $1.3 billion.

But the Government will now subsidise 25 per cent of wages for all local employees. Companies in the worst-hit aviation and tourism sectors will get a 75 per cent subsidy, and those in the food services sector, 50 per cent.



The wage cap was also raised from $3,600 to $4,600, with the scheme extended for another six months so that employers would get payouts in May, July and October, Mr Heng said.

Then, following the announcement of the circuit breaker measures earlier this month, he announced that the first payout would be brought forward to this month to help companies with cash flow.




Companies in all sectors will also get a 75 per cent wage subsidy for this month, with the subsidies reverting to normal levels beyond that.

The money paid out in this tranche will be computed based on October 2019 wages. It will subsequently be adjusted based on actual wages paid this month.



In a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Heng said the implementing agencies have been working very hard to bring forward the first tranche of payouts.

"I trust that business leaders will do their best, to retain their workers, and our workers will use this time well, to learn new skills," he added.

Companies with CorpPass access can log in to the myTax portal to view their notification letters from next Monday. They do not need to apply to receive the payouts.

Eligible businesses will be notified by post about the subsidy tier they qualify for and the amount of money they will get. They can also check their eligibility on the IRAS website.

Employers who had earlier signed up for PayNow Corporate or have existing Giro arrangements with IRAS will have had the payouts directly credited to their registered bank accounts yesterday.

Those who are not on either scheme will start receiving their cheques from next Thursday, 23 April.






























Jobs Support Scheme payouts: 7 things to know
Over 140,000 employers of local workers started getting first tranche from 15 April 2020
By Joanna Seow, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 18 Apr 2020

More than 140,000 employers of local workers started receiving the first Jobs Support Scheme payout from Wednesday.

The scheme pays out 75 per cent of wages for this month on the first $4,600 of a worker's gross monthly pay, and at least 25 per cent for a further eight months, depending on the sector.

Firms in the food services industry will receive 50 per cent of wages for those eight months while aviation and tourism sector companies will get 75 per cent of wages for the full nine months.

The wage subsidies were announced in February's Budget and then later enhanced.

Here are seven things to know about the payouts:


THERE IS NO NEED TO APPLY

All employers who have made Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions for local staff - Singaporeans and permanent residents - qualify, apart from some on an exclusion list such as local government agencies, embassies or representative offices of foreign companies.

Eligible companies will be notified of the subsidy tier they qualify for and the amount they will receive. Those with CorpPass access can log in to the myTax Portal to view their notification letters from Monday.

Employers using Giro or PayNow Corporate for transactions with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) will get their payouts faster.

The first tranche was directly credited on Wednesday to the Giro bank account that employers use for income or goods and services tax. Others had it credited to the bank account they have registered with PayNow Corporate.

Companies not on either scheme will start receiving cheques from April 23.


SUBSEQUENT PAYOUTS WILL BE ADJUSTED DOWN IF EMPLOYERS CUT WAGES NOW

The first payout this month is calculated based on wages paid in October, November and December last year.

The higher support of 75 per cent for April wages is to help firms cope with the month-long circuit breaker measures that have forced non-essential businesses to close their workplaces. It was calculated based on October 2019 wages first, so that the money can be paid out faster.

Any difference between a worker's wages in October 2019 and April 2020 will be factored into the second and third payouts.

For example, if a worker was put on no-pay leave this month, the extra payout credited to his employer in the first tranche will be subtracted from subsequent tranches, where possible.

The July payout is based on wages paid in February, March and April this year while the October payout is based on wages paid in May, June and July this year.





WORKERS EARNING MORE THAN $4,600 ARE STILL COVERED

The subsidy applies to the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages. If a worker earns more than $4,600, his employer gets 75 per cent of $4,600, or $3,450, for his April wages.

Gross monthly wages include employee CPF contributions, but exclude employer CPF contributions.


PAYOUTS COVER WAGES OF EMPLOYEES ONLY

They do not cover the wages of business owners, such as sole proprietors or employees who are both shareholders and directors of the company. This is because the scheme is meant to help companies retain local staff during the pandemic.

Self-employed people who are eligible for the recently announced Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme can receive three quarterly cash payouts of $3,000 in May, July and October this year.




WHY PAYOUTS GO TO EMPLOYERS, NOT WORKERS THEMSELVES

The payouts are meant to help employers continue to pay local workers' salaries and employer CPF contributions during this period when revenues have likely been hit.

CPF contribution rates for employers and employees have not been changed.


EMPLOYERS CAN CHECK ELIGIBILITY FOR HIGHER TIERS OF SUPPORT ONLINE

Aviation and tourism businesses qualify for 75 per cent wage support throughout the nine months of the scheme. They include airlines, airport ground handlers, travel agents, gated tourist attractions, hotels and operators of meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions venues.

Food services businesses qualify for 75 per cent wage support this month and 50 per cent support for eight months. These are licensed food shops and stalls, including hawker stalls.

There is a Jobs Support Scheme Employer Eligibility form which allows you to check if you are eligible for the higher wage subsidies. Access it at www.iras.gov.sg/irashome/Schemes/Businesses/Jobs-Support-Scheme--JSS-/. You can also call 1800-352-4728 during office hours (between 8am and 5pm, Mondays to Fridays).

There is also an appeal form available on the same website. Appeals will be considered on a case-by-case basis.





INQUIRIES CAN BE MADE TO THE IRAS

You can contact the taxman for more information on the scheme via go.gov.sg/payout or call 1800-352-4728.









* Parliament: Wage subsidy payouts for shareholder-directors will include backdated payouts for April 2020
50,000 more will benefit from Jobs Support Scheme
By Choo Yun Ting, The Straits Times, 5 May 2020

Wage subsidy payouts under the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) for shareholder-directors will include backdated payments for the month of April.

The disbursement for this group of qualifying employees will start this month, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in Parliament yesterday.

About 50,000 qualifying employees who are also shareholders and directors of companies, with assessable income of $100,000 or less in the year of assessment 2019, are expected to benefit from this enhanced scheme.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said feedback had been received from shareholder-directors, especially from smaller companies and start-ups, whose personal wages form a significant portion of their firms' bills but were not covered by the JSS.

They also do not qualify for the self-employed person income relief scheme.

The JSS was changed to take into account the situation of this group of employees, Mr Heng said.

"By supporting them, we hope that these shareholder-directors will be able to retain their own wages and livelihoods, just as we would like them to retain their employees," he said.

The salary criteria was set to better target shareholder-directors who need the support more, he added.

The change to include this group was announced by Mr Heng on April 21, when circuit breaker measures were extended to June 1.

The JSS pays out 75 per cent of wages for April and May on the first $4,600 of a worker's gross monthly pay, and at least 25 per cent for a further seven months, depending on the sector.

Firms in the food services industry will receive 50 per cent of wages for those seven months, while companies in the aviation and tourism sectors will get 75 per cent of wages for the full nine months.

The scheme was announced in February's Budget and enhanced in the supplementary budgets in March and April.
















*  32 companies return $35 million of Jobs Support Scheme payouts; others are donating the funds
DPM Heng heartened by firms that return, donate wage subsidy payouts
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 May 2020

Thirty-two companies have returned their Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) payouts and will turn down future payouts under the scheme, while others have pledged to donate the money to charity instead.

They include multinational firms, financial institutions and local enterprises across different sectors, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who added that he was heartened by their action.

"I am very encouraged by their sense of responsibility and shared community," Mr Heng said in a Facebook post yesterday. "I hope their exemplary action will inspire other companies that are doing well to consider doing the same."



Another 29 companies who received last month's JSS payouts have also decided to turn down future payments, said the Finance Ministry in a separate statement.

It added that it has received $35 million from companies returning their payouts so far. The money will be used to fund future payments under the scheme.

A total of $7 billion, which will go to more than 140,000 employers, was set aside under the JSS to help cover a portion of the wages of over 1.9 million local employees.

The wage subsidies are intended to save jobs amid enhanced safe distancing measures which require most workers to telecommute and those in non-essential services to temporarily cease operations to stem the spread of the coronavirus.



One company which is giving away most of its JSS payout is German pharmaceutical group Boehringer Ingelheim. It will donate $500,000 to five causes its employees voted for - the Migrant Workers' Assistance Fund, Sayang Sayang Fund, Invictus Fund, Singapore Red Cross and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The donation makes up the majority of its JSS payout, said Mr Gerrard McKenna, Boehringer Ingelheim's country managing director and head of human pharma for the South-east Asia and South Korea regional operating unit.

"At this point in time, in contrast to other industries, like aviation and tourism, our company in Singapore has not been financially adversely affected," Mr McKenna said. "We only just reached out to all beneficiaries last week, and all responses have been positive."



Another company that has decided to donate its JSS payout is DSM, which sells nutritional products.

"Regarding any government support coming our way, we are... very clear about our moral deliverable," said DSM Asia-Pacific president Pieter Nuboer. "It is to redirect these funds to those most in need."

Mr Heng thanked companies for their commitment, contributions and confidence in Singapore.

"By standing together and helping one another, we can overcome this crisis and emerge stronger," he said. "This is the spirit of our Singapore Together movement."














 











**  140,000 employers to get $4 billion in next Jobs Support Scheme payout from 28 May 2020
By Tee Zhuo and Choo Yun Ting, The Straits Times, 18 May 2020

More than 140,000 employers will get over $4 billion in Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) payouts from May 28, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

The figure is part of more than $20 billion committed over three COVID-19 support packages to the scheme, which will subsidise 75 per cent of the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages per local worker for this month.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said the wage support for firms in Singapore is very significant, and urged them to use the subsidies to retain workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

His remarks come as Singapore enters its final two weeks of the eight-week-long circuit breaker, with 682 more coronavirus cases confirmed yesterday. The vast majority were migrant workers living in dormitories, with four Singaporeans and permanent residents.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the multi-ministry virus task force, said the end of the circuit breaker on June 1 does not mean its measures, meant to control the virus' spread, will be lifted overnight.

"It won't simply be a return to life before the circuit breaker," he said yesterday, noting that the Government will adopt a careful and calibrated approach as the country resumes normal activities at work, schools and in social settings.

In fact, people should be fully prepared that many of the current restrictions will continue for some time, said Mr Wong, adding that the Government is preparing for the next phase and considering what activities can resume safely.

"A controlled and phased exit from the circuit breaker will require patience and discipline from all of us," he said. "We must all do our part to control the spread of the virus and ensure that it does not flare up again. Otherwise all our efforts and sacrifices during this circuit breaker period would have been made in vain."

The construction sector, for example, will restart on a few critical projects with very tight safeguards from June 2. These include requiring workers for a project to be housed together, instead of in multiple dormitories, as well as testing workers at two-week intervals.

The number of construction workers involved in projects will scale up over time as the industry gains confidence and experience with the measures, Mr Wong said.



Construction work has been largely suspended since the circuit breaker started on April 7, with only 5 per cent of the sector's workforce - about 20,000 workers - continuing on a few essential projects. Another 5 per cent is expected to resume work gradually, meaning about one-tenth of the usual workforce will be active next month.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said employers need not apply for the JSS as the money will be automatically computed using Central Provident Fund data as at Feb 14.

Employers who register for PayNow Corporate with their banks by Friday can expect to receive the payment by May 28, the ministry added. Others will get cheques between June 3 and 5.

This month's payouts will be computed based on last November's wages, and future JSS payouts will be adjusted to account for the actual wages paid this month.

MOF added that some local employees who are also shareholders and directors of firms qualify for the JSS this month under an enhancement announced on April 21. They will also get backdated payments from last month.

This will benefit some 50,000 shareholder-directors with assessable income of $100,000 or less in the year of assessment 2019. They form part of the more than 1.9 million workers that the JSS will help in total.

Mr Heng also thanked companies that returned their payouts.

As of May 9, 32 companies have returned $35 million in JSS payouts to the Government and also pledged to decline further payouts.











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