Updated: June 1, 2020, following the announcement on the most recent Fortitude Budget
As an SME, we’re used to facing challenges and finding creative solutions – because we have no other options in order to survive. With the wave of COVID-19, SMEs and organisations of all sizes worldwide are feeling the added stressors. This is one global pandemic that, unfortunately, the invisible hand cannot seem to grasp. Since February 2020, the Singapore government has issued a number of financial support mechanisms for families, individuals, and businesses during these challenging times.
Financial support initiatives for COVID-19 were announced on February 18, 2020 with the Unity budget, following the Resilience (March 26) and most recently, the Solidarity budget (April 6) in response to the circuit breaker announcement period for April 6 - May 4, 2020 (until further notice). A total of $60.1 billion has been allocated towards COVID-19 related measures.
During these past three months, there have been a number of new announcements and support schemes for SMEs – and keeping track of them all can be overwhelming. We’ll do our best to update this post as announcements emerge to keep our community aware of the types of government initiatives available.
1) Jobs Support Scheme (JSS)
The initial JSS announcement from the Unity budget has now been updated with the Solidarity budget. The JSS provides support for employee wages across all business sectors. This subsidy now applies to 75% of local employees for the month of April for the first $4,600 of their month's salary. This means that the maximum benefit that the JSS covers for the month of April will be $3,450 per employee. In addition, the government will also provide support for employers of different sectors (Aviation & Tourism, Food Services, and others) for 9 months.
Update from the Fortitude Budget: JSS will be extended for an additional month to cover wages paid in August 2020, with payouts set in October 2020. For businesses that are unable to resume operations once Circuit Breaker has been lifted, the Singapore Government will continue to provide wage support (75%) until August 2020, or until the business is able to resume. Additional support for employers in Aviation, Food Services, Retail, Arts and Entertainment, Land Transport, and Marine and Offshore sectors still stand.
Visit here for more information, a JSS calculator, and payout timelines.
2) Support with credit
The Solidarity budget increased the SME Working Capital Loan issued by Enterprise Singapore from $300,000 to $1 million for new applications between April 8, 2020 - March 31, 2021.
Additional loans, such as the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme (TBLP) for the tourism sector and other subsidies, such as the Loan Insurance Scheme, are also available. The Monetary Authority of Singapore will also lend support to businesses and individuals to work with banks and insurers to support their cash flow challenges.
3) Corporate income tax rebates for 2020: 25% rebate, up to $15,000 per company
4) Wage Credit Scheme (WCS)
The WCS was introduced in 2013, where the government assists in co-funding wage increases. For 2019 and 2020, the co-funding ratio will be increased to 20% and 15%, with a ceiling of up to $5,000.
5) Property tax rebates
Businesses can receive up to 30% in property tax rebates for 2020 (see here for eligibility and here for the IRAS property tax calculator). In addition, between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, all government fees and charges will be frozen.
6) Foreign worker levy rebate
The Foreign Worker Levy that is due April 2020 will be waived. In addition, the government will provide a rebate of $750 for each Work Permit and S-Pass holder.
Update from the Fortitude Budget: Businesses in select sectors (such as construction, marine, offshore, and process sectors) that are unable to resume operations on-site immediately after the circuit breaker is lifted will be able to extend the levy rebate for up to two months (100% in June and 50% in July).
7) Working from home support subsidies
For SMEs that may not have all the resources to enable their teams to work from home effectively, the Infocomm Media and Development Authority (IMDA) announced on April 17, 2020 that they will be providing a subsidy of up to 80% on pre-approved remote working solutions that come with laptops. This is part of their larger "Stay Healthy, Go Digital" initiative, with more resources available at https://www.imda.gov.sg/BizGoDigital.
8) Offers by APAC startups
9) E-Commerce Booster Package
Enterprise Singapore has launched the E-Commerce Booster Package that allows traditional brick and mortar retailers to transform their businesses online, with support in domestic and international markets. In addition, the package also offers one time support to cover 90% of wages for three months. See the finer details and apply here.
10) Rental Relief for SMEs
Taken together with the Property Tax Rebate, the government will offset about two months of rental for qualifying SME tenants of commercial properties, and about one month for qualifying SME tenants of industrial and office properties. There will also be an additional two months of rental waivers for commercial tenants and hawkers, and one month of rental waiver for industrial, office and agricultural tenants. Read more about this update from the Fortitude Budget here.
11) Boosting E-Payments at Hawkers and more
A bonus of $300 per month over 5 months for e-payment adoption will be provided by IMDA, NEA, JTC, HDB, and Enterprise Singapore. This initiative is used to encourage more stallholders in hawker centres, wet markets, coffee shops, and industrial canteens to avoid handling cash.
12) Digital Resilience Bonus
Eligible businesses can receive a payout of up to $5,000 if they adopt PayNow Corporate and e-invoicing, as well as business process or e-commerce solutions. There is an additional tier of $5,000 for F&B and retail businesses which also incorporate advanced solutions. The government has set aside $250 million to help businesses digitalise in partnership with digital platform solution providers and industry champions.
As an SME ourselves, we’re always looking for ways to make it easier for businesses to take care of their employees. It shouldn’t take times like COVID-19 for us to recognise the value of our employees who deserve the medical and health benefits they need to live a good life in and outside of work. At the end of the day, businesses are nothing without the teams that support them. We hope that during these times, we continue to grow and strengthen our teams to brave the storm together.