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S$90 Million COVID-19 Scheme — Has The Grant Been Helpful in Aiding Singaporeans?

As the pandemic continues to affect Singapore, the government has stepped in once again to relief the burden of its people who are struggling in these unprecedented times.

On 17 August, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the COVID-19 grant will be extended to the end of the year. In his ministerial statement, Mr Heng said the COVID-19 scheme have been given to 60,000 Singaporeans so far with a total pay out of more than $90 million.

The grant aims to help those who are unemployed or have suffered significant income loss due to the pandemic.

However, to qualify for the grant, those who are unemployed must prove job that they have searched for employment or training efforts. Further details of the grant will be announced early next month.

According to Mr Heng, it is likely that Singapore’s job market will continue to remain weak beyond this year. Observers have said that more businesses will be closing and retrenchment will be apparent in the coming months due to the impact of the circuit breaker.

Mr Heng said that they are researching on how to continue to support employees and self-employed who are currently the most vulnerable group.

He also pointed out that they government will pay attention to low-wage workers as many of them are essential workers who have kept Singapore going through these tough times.

Those on the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme for work done in 2019 are also eligible for the payout. In addition, those who were not on the WIS list last year but who have already received or will be receiving WIS for work done this year can also be qualified for the grant.

In times like these, it is extremely important for Singaporeans to have support from every avenue to cushion the fall that they are currently facing. But has the grant been helpful to aid Singaporeans through this though times?

Irfan, 26, fresh graduate from The University of Sheffield

The pandemic has certainly impacted the lives of fresh graduates around the world who now have to face the uncertainty of their future.

Their dreams of jumping straight into employment and kick starting the new part of their life seem rather bleak at the moment. As the job market continues to weaken, so are the hopes and dreams of the fresh graduates who are now struggling to make end meets.

Sheffield University graduate, Irfan who returned home from the UK in March, has certainly felt the pinch of the pandemic. He is currently seeking graduate opportunities and traineeships but has admitted that he is struggling in getting a job despite the government’s attempt to help fresh graduates through the implementation of the traineeships.

He said, “I feel like there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment surrounding today’s job climate with COVID-19, particularly among fresh graduates. I am slightly concerned about my career prospects and its implications in the long run due to the pandemic”

Over the past few months, Irfan has applied for hundreds of jobs only to find himself in a cycle of not hearing back from the employers.

Despite his positive outlook on the whole situation, it is not a surprise that this fresh graduate have great worries about his future which includes the salary gap between his first and next job, the high cost of living in Singapore, job stability especially in this current climate and last but definitely not least, providing for his family.

But the sociology graduate continues to remain hopeful in these tough times, and has said that he will brave through the upcoming challenges. Though the whole situation frustrating, he is determined that the right job will come for him soon.

The 26 year-old have also shared that the pandemic have opened up his eyes to a lot of things — something that he might not have taken great notice if the pandemic hasn’t happened.

He said, “The virus has definitely allowed me to broaden my perspective and outlook in life, especially in terms of adaptability. I believe that right now, it is important to develop industry and career-oriented skills that would improve my chances of securing my dream job in the future, despite whatever the role or job might be.”

However, Irfan has admitted that the government has certainly eased a lot of his burdens more so with the new announcement of the extension of the COVID-19 support grant. He believes that the Singapore government have been working hard to cushion the fall of Singaporeans.

“In comparison to other countries, I do believe that our government has implemented practical policies and strategies to assist fresh graduates in these trying times. For example, setting up traineeship opportunities and providing allowance during that period,” he said.

Irfan also shared that the grant will significantly help him a lot as he tries to navigate his way to secure a full time job.

He said, “I think $800 seems like a fair amount, particularly when it was handed to more than 60,000 residents. It would be great if the amount it higher, but we should be grateful and try out best to sustain the help given, or even make some adjustments to our lifestyle and balance it out.”

As Singapore tries to navigate its way through this pandemic, it might have overlooked, certain part of the society, who is equally struggling like the rest of Singapore.

Shawn, 48, business owner of a construction company

Construction business owner, Shawn*, was forced to stop all his site work due to the surge of cases in dormitory. Due to that, he found himself in a difficult position where his monthly income had been severely affected.

Being in one of the most affected industry, he believes that the government might have overlooked on the fact that they, too, are struggling.

He said, “I have lost a significant amount of my income since the circuit breaker and was still denied any grant because of the annual income of my house. I don’t think this is necessarily fair, because what does my property annual value have got to do with the eligibility of the grant? It’s hard. Just like every other Singaporean, I, too lost a significant amount of income.”

Though the odds are against him at the moment, Shawn believes that there is a light at the of the tunnel. Since the dormitory have cleared not too long ago, things are slowly getting better for the businessman.

“To be honest, I am still frustrated that I was denied the grant. I had no help all because of my annual house value. But, is it really fair? Being in the most affected business, my income wasn’t stable at all.

“If I was lucky, I would take $500 home, but some months, I didn’t even had anything to take home. But since they cleared the dorm, things are picking up slowly and I am so excited to start work again.”

The 48 year-old have said that he is thankful that the government is helping low wage workers but he wished for the help to be extended to every Singaporean despite the annual house value.

He said, “I don’t mean to sound ungrateful and I know that there are people out there who are struggling more than me, but all I’m trying to say is that, I wished help was there for me when I needed it.”

Applications for the support grant are now open till December. To apply, please visit https://msf-csg.gov.sg/preinstruction/csg from 9am to 6pm daily.

Processing time will take about two weeks upon submission of supporting documents.

*not real name

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