Sunday, 11 October 2020

Baby Support Grant: One-off $3,000 grant to supplement the existing Baby Bonus Cash Gift for children born from 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2022

New parents to get $3,000 Baby Support Grant to help defray the cost of raising a child amid the COVID-19 pandemic
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 10 Oct 2020

Parents of Singaporean children born between Oct 1 this year and Sept 30, 2022, can get a one-off $3,000 grant to help them defray the cost of raising a child amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Baby Support Grant will supplement the existing Baby Bonus cash gift - which can be as much as $10,000 - and will be deposited into the same bank account parents have nominated for the cash gift.

Payments will start from April 1 next year or within one month of enrolment in the Baby Bonus scheme, whichever is later.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah, who announced the grant at a virtual media conference yesterday, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has not been easy on Singaporeans planning to wed and start families.

While the Government has enhanced support for marriage and parenthood on many different fronts, committing $4 billion annually to the Marriage and Parenthood Package, this year has been especially challenging for many young couples, she said.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has affected lives and livelihoods, and some Singaporeans are delaying their marriage and parenthood plans as a result of insecurity about jobs and incomes," said Ms Indranee, who oversees the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD).

The Baby Support Grant will give a further boost to coaxing couples not to delay their plans to get hitched and start a family, she added, noting that a recent survey shows some couples will postpone their life plans owing to concerns about their financial stability and employment prospects

"The Government will spare no effort to help couples meet their marriage and parenthood aspirations," she said.

Ms Indranee also said that every segment of society plays an important role in supporting Singaporeans on their parenthood journey, including employers and businesses.

The NPTD, which administers the Baby Support Grant with the Ministry of Social and Family Development, said it understands the disappointment of some parents in missing out on the new grant because of the start date.

"We would like to seek the public's understanding that specific start dates are needed for any new measure or enhancement," it added, noting that children born before Oct 1 this year can still enjoy the many benefits in the Marriage and Parenthood Package.

Ms Indranee further said that while the Government is not able to predict when the pandemic will end, the grant's duration is for two years, which is deemed to be a reasonable period of time.

It will be reviewed at the end of the period to see if it is still relevant and useful, she added.

Guest services officer Grace Tng, 37, who is expecting to deliver her second son on Oct 24, is glad she and her cabby husband will get more financial support. "His income has been affected by COVID-19, and I have been worried over whether we can cope with the costs of having our second child. This $3,000 will come in handy for childcare, diapers, fresh food and other essentials," she said.

Mr Jeremy Au, 33, who returned home from the United States with his pregnant wife in March and is expecting a daughter in December, also cheered the news. He and his wife faced a "pretty lonely parenthood journey" amid COVID-19 restrictions, which meant they could not attend birthing classes, for instance.

"I definitely feel supported by this acknowledgement of the financial and psychological difficulties we face amid the pandemic," said Mr Au, who is building his own start-up after quitting his job as the executive director of an American education firm.

Some Singaporean couples delay plans for marriage, kids amid COVID-19 pandemic
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 10 Oct 2020

Some Singaporean couples are likely to delay their plans to marry or have a child as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts their financial stability and affects their job security, according to a survey.

These were among the reasons cited by about three out of 10 respondents in a survey commissioned by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

While the actual impact on Singapore's birth rate will come to the fore around nine months later, the findings are a matter of concern, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah, who oversees the NPTD.

If COVID-19 further pushes down Singapore's total fertility rate, the number of Singapore-born citizens in the national population will drop even further, she added.

It will have knock-on effects, particularly in upsetting plans to grow the Singaporean core, she said.

Already, Singapore's total fertility rate (TFR) is below the replacement rate of 2.1 - the level at which a population replaces itself. The TFR dipped from 1.82 in 1980 to 1.14 last year, which is among the lowest in the world.

The survey, conducted in June and July this year, polled about 4,100 Singaporeans.

About half were singles aged 22 to 32 who were in serious relationships. The rest were married individuals aged 21 to 45.

About 80 per cent of those who were married and indicated that they planned to delay having children said they would do so for up to two years. The rest said the delay may go beyond two years, or were unsure.

The main concerns of those delaying having a child include uncertainty about the global health situation in the light of COVID-19, shaky economic and employment prospects, and worries about the safety of healthcare facilities.

Around 70 per cent of the singles who plan to put off their weddings said they would do so for up to two years. Most cited the uncertain global health situation and difficulty of holding a wedding ceremony.

The economy and job security worried them, too.

"As age affects fertility, marrying and having children later may result in families being unable to have the number of children they aspire to have," said the NPTD.

Ms Indranee hopes the $3,000 Baby Support Grant announced yesterday will coax couples to get hitched and be parents.

"We want young couples to know the Government and the community stand with them, so that they need not delay major life events."

*  Parents of Singaporean children born ahead of estimated delivery dates in October can appeal for Baby Support Grant
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 16 Oct 2020

Parents of Singaporean children born before Oct 1 but whose certified estimated delivery date was on or after Oct 1 can appeal for the $3,000 Baby Support Grant, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah.

More information on how parents can submit appeals will be made available soon by the National Population and Talent Division, said Ms Indranee, who is in charge of the division.

Last Friday, the Government said only babies born between Oct 1 and Sept 30, 2022, will qualify for the one-off $3,000 grant, which is meant to help defray the cost of having a child amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In response to concerns raised by Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC) and others, Ms Indranee in Parliament yesterday said she "fully understands that parents who were not eligible to receive the Baby Support Grant are disappointed".

She said: "They experienced inconveniences and challenges in caring for newborns this year, especially during the circuit breaker."

This included having to cope with new visitation guidelines and restrictions at healthcare facilities, and having to adapt quickly when it became difficult to get help to care for newborns, added Ms Indranee.

There were plans initially to provide a one-off grant next year from Jan 1, as part of next year's Budget, she said. "However, we felt it was important to get the support out as quickly as we can to help more Singaporeans with their parenthood aspirations. Announcing the plans next year could mean that couples may delay attempts to have a child in the meantime. So, we tried hard to see how we could do this earlier."

Despite the Government's tight fiscal situation, it was able to set aside some budget funds this year to provide more support for Singaporean parents as soon as it could and that, she said, explains the start date of Oct 1.

Ms Indranee added that there is already substantial government support for parents, including cash support of $8,000 to $10,000 offered by the Baby Bonus cash gift and between $3,000 and $15,000 in government co-savings for the Child Development Account.

Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh asked if the Government will consider extending the Baby Support Grant to Singaporeans who have received subsidies from other relief schemes, like the Covid-19 Support Grant.

In response, Ms Indranee said the Baby Support Grant has a "very specific policy intent" of encouraging those who want to have children but may be delaying their plans in the current climate. Parents in the low-income bracket who need extra help will be supported by the Government, she added.

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) and Ms He asked if the grant could be extended to unwed parents, with Mr Ng noting that the extra cash support could provide a lifeline for them amid the outbreak.

Ms Indranee said there are other schemes to help unwed parents if they are struggling financially, and the authorities will look into how they can be supported. She added that the Baby Support Grant is also not applicable for single parents.

However, government benefits to support growth and development are given to all Singaporean children, regardless of the parents' marital status, she said, including childcare and infant care subsidies. "As society continues to evolve, our policies will be updated to keep pace with societal realities," she added.


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