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4 things on the Fortitude Budget so workers and businesses can go forth

Unity. Resilience. Solidarity. Fortitude.

These words have taken on added meaning in the various Budgets that the Government has rolled out to aid Singaporeans during the Covid-19 pandemic.

After all, this crisis has tested the unity, resilience, solidarity and fortitude of our country, and the Government is answering.

In the latest Fortitude Budget (amounting to a whopping $33 billion) announced on May 26, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat unveiled a slew of plans to provide support for businesses and workers to adapt, transform and seize new opportunities.

It will be a challenging year ahead for our economy. But the Government has a plan - a plan which includes wage support, skills training and creation of new jobs - to facilitate our road to recovery. Let us break the deets down for you.

1) Jobs Support Scheme (JSS)

To help workers stay employed, JSS will be extended by one more month till August 2020, with the Government paying 25 to 75 per cent of monthly wages for all local employees. For firms that cannot resume operations immediately after the circuit breaker, the Government will continue to provide wage support at 75 per cent until August 2020, or when they are allowed to reopen.

There will also be increased support for more affected sectors - such as aerospace, retail, marine and offshore - from the previous 25 per cent to either 50 per cent or 75 per cent.

2) SGUnited Jobs & Skills Package

Many workers may worry about employment prospects. With the SGUnited Jobs & Skills Package, close to 100,000 opportunities will be available in the form of jobs, traineeships and skills training. This supports workers so they can remain employable and be ready for new jobs.

One of the goals is to create 40,000 jobs from the public and private sector by the end of 2020. 14,000 places will come from expanded career conversion programmes, such as the Place-and-Train conversion programmes under the Adapt and Grow Initiative, and Company-Led Training Programmes under the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA).

Traineeships will be open to first-time job seekers from June 1 onwards, to help them access job opportunities, pick up industry-related skills, and build networks. Mid-career job seekers (aged 40 to 60) will have 4,000 traineeships to learn new skills and start new careers.

Training courses will be made available from July onwards to 30,000 job seekers to upgrade their skills while job hunting. A training allowance of $1,200 per month for the course duration (between six to 12 months) will be provided to cover basic expenses.

Not only does retraining help to equip workers with the skills to remain employable, employers are also provided with incentives to hire them. For workers under 40, employers receive a wage subsidy of 20 per cent of their monthly salary for six months, capped at $6,000 in total. For workers 40 and above, the subsidy is 40 per cent of their monthly salary for six months, capped at $12,000 in total.

3) Covid-19 Support Grant

The Government will provide support for those who have lost jobs or are financially affected due to Covid-19, so that they can focus on upgrading their skills or looking for a new job.

An additional $800 million will be set aside for this grant to support more Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who need financial help. This includes those who have lost their jobs, are placed on no-pay leave, or had significantly reduced salaries. Eligible recipients will receive up to $800 per month for three months.

This is one of the many ways affected workers are given immediate relief to tide over this difficult period.

4) Financial support for enterprises

To help firms manage their operational costs so that they can retain their workers, there will be $2 billion in cash grants to help SME tenants with rental costs. In addition to the property tax rebate for 2020, the Government will also offset another two months' rental for qualifying SME tenants of commercial properties, and one month's rental for qualifying SME tenants of industrial and office properties.

There will also be additional rental waivers for commercial and other non-residential tenants of Government properties - including stallholders of hawker centres and markets, tenants of commercial buildings, and industrial, office and agricultural tenants.

To help further manage costs, businesses that are not allowed to resume on-site operations from June 1 will get a 100 per cent Foreign Worker Levy (FWL) waiver and $750 rebate in June, followed by a 50 per cent waiver and $375 rebate in July.

The future post-Covid-19 looks to be an increasingly digital one. To ensure that businesses are not left behind as the economy transforms, the Government is providing support for them to go digital. This will help them thrive and retain workers, or even create more jobs for Singaporeans.

It'll come in two forms, with the first being a bonus of $300 per month over five months to encourage the adoption of e-payment by stallholders in hawker centres, wet markets, coffee shops and industrial canteens.

Secondly, there's a Digital Resilience Bonus, a pilot programme (starting with food services and retail sectors) that offers up to $5,000 to help businesses digitalise with PayNow Corporate, e-invoicing, business process or e-commerce solutions.

There will be an additional payout of $5,000 for businesses that tap on advanced solutions.

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