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Government and institution measures in response to COVID-19.

Government and institution measures in response to COVID-19.

Return to homepage  |  Last updated: 9 September, 2020

General Information

The Minister for Finance unveiled on 18 February 2020, a S$4 billion Stabilization and Support Package (as part of the Unity Budget) that contains a range of measures to cushion the blow of COVID-19 on local businesses and workers. As both the global economy and COVID-19 outbreak continue to worsen, the Government has announced a second stimulus package (known as the Resilience Budget), worth a generous S$48.4 billion on 26 March 2020 to support households, help workers stay employed and provide support for businesses to emerge stronger when the economy recovers. Apart from broad based support for the entire economy, the Resilience Budget also introduced measures to help specific sectors that are directly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak such as the Aviation, Tourism, Food Services, Land Transport and Arts & Culture sectors. Subsequently, with the “circuit breaker” taking effect from 7 April 2020, the Government has announced on 6 April 2020, a third stimulus package worth S$5.1 billion (known as the Solidarity Budget), targeted at cushioning the impact of the “circuit breaker” on the local workforce and livelihoods of our workers. Alongside the Solidarity Budget, the Government passed a new wide-range bill to provide additional assistance (via temporary relief) due to the COVID-19 outbreak. With the “circuit breaker” measures progressively lifted from 2 June 2020, the Government announced a fourth stimulus package worth S$33 billion (known as the Fortitude Budget) on 26 May 2020, with focus on (1) creating jobs and building skills for workers; (2) boosting transformation for enterprises and (3) strengthening resilience for community. As the COVID-19 situation gradually stabilises in Singapore, the country has entered the second phase of the Government’s reopening strategy for the economy. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance also announced in his Ministerial Statement on 17 August 2020, extensions of certain current support schemes and new initiatives to provide continued support for businesses and jobs that have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tax measures – Direct and Indirect

(e.g. payment deferrals, rate reductions…)

Click here to see a comprehensive summary of jurisdictional tax measures and government reliefs in response to COVID-19.

Employment-related measures

(e.g. state compensation schemes, training…)

Jobs Support Scheme
  • Employers will receive cash grant (tax-exempt in the hands of employers) of up to the first S$4,600 gross monthly salary for each local employee (applicable only to Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents) for the months of October 2019 to December 2019, and February to August 2020 as follows:
Tax-exempt cash grant % of up to the first $4,600 gross monthly salary per local employee All industries (except those separately listed) Aviation/ Aerospace and Tourism/ Hospitality/ Conventions and Exhibitions Services Food, Retail, Arts and Entertainment, Land Transport, Marine and Offshore Services
Oct 2019 to Dec 2019
Feb to Mar 2020
Jun to Aug 2020
25%1 75% 50%
April and May 2020   75%2  
Sep 2020 to Mar 2021 10%3 50% 30%

1The Built Environment sector will receive 75% cash grant for the months of June to August 2020.
2The 75% cash grant will continue to apply for all businesses which are not allowed to resume operations, or until August 2020, whichever is earlier.
3The Built Environment sector will receive 50% cash grant for the months of September and October 2020 and 30% cash grant for the months of November 2020 to March 2021. Selected sectors (i.e. Financial Services, Information and Communications Technology and Media, Biomedical Sciences, Precision Engineering, Electronics and Online Retail and Supermarkets) will receive 10% cash grant until December 2020. Businesses that are not allowed to resume on-site operations will receive 50% cash grant until they are allowed to resume, or until March 2021, whichever is earlier.

  • With effect from April 2020, the Scheme will also cover employees who are shareholders/ directors of the company subject to meeting certain conditions.

Enhancements to Wage Credit Scheme

  • This scheme, which co-funds wage increases for Singaporean employees, will see an increase in the qualifying gross monthly wage ceiling from S$4,000 to S$5,000, for both 2019 and 2020. The Government will also increase the level of co-funding by five percentage points to 20% and 15% of the wage increases in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
  • The additional payout for the 2019 wage increase has been brought forward from September 2020 to June 2020.

Foreign Worker Levy (FWL)

  • The FWL for the month of April and May 2020 will be waived. Additionally, a FWL rebate of S$750 per month for the months of April and May 2020 (from levies paid in year 2020) will be granted for each work permit or S-pass holder, with payout accelerated to help businesses manage costs.
  • For businesses (such as construction, marine and offshore as well as process sectors) which are not allowed to resume operations after the “circuit breaker”, the FWL waiver and rebate will be extended by up to 2 months as follows:
    • 100% waiver and $750 rebate in June 2020; and
    • 50% waiver and $375 rebate in July 2020.
  • The support for businesses in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors has been further extended until December 2021 as follows:
    • 100% waiver in July, August and September 2020 (refund will be given for FWL paid previously for July 2020), 75% waiver in October 2020, 50% waiver in November 2020 and 25% waiver in December 2020; and
    • $375 rebate in August and September 2020 and $90 rebate from October 2020 to December 2021.

Central Provident Fund (“CPF”) obligation

  • The CPF Board has clarified that reimbursements based on actual expenditure to help defray employees’ transport, meal, lodging or utility expenses will not be subject to CPF. This is provided that the reimbursements do not increase the employees’ remuneration and the expenses are incurred due to alternative work arrangements in connection with COVID-19.
  • Plans to increase the CPF contribution rates for senior workers have been deferred by one year, to 1 January 2022. The CPF Transition Offset scheme, introduced to help employers by offsetting half of the increase in CPF contributions, will similarly be deferred.

SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package

  • The Government will launch the new SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, which is targeted at creating about 100,000 opportunities in 4 broad components:
    • Jobs: Creating up to 40,000 jobs in the public (15,000) and private (25,000) sectors.
    • Traineeships: Creating up to 21,000 traineeships for first-time jobseekers and 4,000 traineeships for mid-career job seekers; and
    • Skills: Increasing capacity of training courses for up to 30,000 jobseekers in year 2020 and providing allowance of up to S$1,200 per month throughout the duration (between 6 to 12 months) of such highly subsidized course.
  • There will be hiring incentive for employers to hire local workers who have completed eligible traineeship and training schemes as follow:
    • Aged 40 and above: 40% of monthly salary for 6 months, capped at S$12,000; and
    • Under 40: 20% of monthly salary for 6 months, capped at S$6,000.

Jobs Growth Incentive

  • The Government will launch the new S$1 billion Jobs Growth Incentive, which supports the creation of new jobs for local workers, by co-paying salaries of all new local hires for one year, subject to a cap, as follows:
    • Aged 40 and above: up to 50% of monthly salary; and
    • Under 40: up to 25% of monthly salary.

Covid-19 Support Grant

  • Target beneficiaries and eligibility criteria
    • Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents, aged 16 years and above, who are presently involuntarily unemployed due to retrenchment or contract termination, or presently on involuntary no-pay leave (NPL) for at least three consecutive months, or presently experiencing reduced monthly salary of at least 30% for at least three consecutive months as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19.
  • Assistance Provided
    • For those who have experienced involuntary job loss or presently on involuntary NPL for a period of at least three consecutive months - Monthly cash grant of up to $800, for 3 months, will be credited into bank account. The cash support quantum will be based on the last-drawn monthly salary, capped at $800.
    • Job and training support by Workforce Singapore or the Employment and Employability Institute.
    • For those who have experienced income loss of at least 30% for a period of at least three consecutive months - Monthly cash grant of up to $500, for 3 months, will be credited into bank account. The cash support quantum will be based on the last-drawn monthly salary, capped at $500.

Immigration related measures

  • All short term visitors are not allowed entry or transit through Singapore, except those who have obtained prior approval under the Green / Fast Lane arrangements (Singapore has arrangements with China for essential business and official travel), or with special prior approval. Singapore and Malaysia will implement Reciprocal Green Land and Periodic Commuting Arrangement with effect from 10 August 2020.
  • All returning residents (including Singapore citizens, Singapore Permanent Residents and long term pass holders) will be required to submit a health declaration which may be done online ahead of arrival. Upon arrival, they must serve a compulsory 14-day Stay Home Notice (SHN).
  • As a rule, travellers will serve the SHN in a government-designated facility. However, those who spent the last 14 consecutive days prior to entry in one of the locations listed by MOM can serve SHN at a suitable residence that is only occupied by them or their family members, or a hotel. The list of locations can be found at Additional responsibilites.
  • Besides the SHN, as an additional precautionary measure, incoming travellers (except those aged 12 or below) will also be required to undergo a COVID-19 test before the end of their SHN.
  • International travels (i.e. bringing foreign employees and their dependents into Singapore) are urged to be deferred. Additionally,
    • Work pass holders and their dependents (including those with in-principle approvals) will need entry approval from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) before travelling. During this period, the chances of receiving this approval in practice, are limited.
  • Approval for new work pass applications for candidates who are overseas are limited. Employers may continue to apply for passes for foreigners who are already in Singapore.
  • For foreign employees who have their work passes cancelled, employers may apply for an extension of stay due to travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19.

Economic stimulus measures

(e.g. loans, moratorium on debt repayments…)

Enhanced SME Working Capital Loan

  • The SME Working Capital Loan (which has been subsumed under the Enterprise Financing Scheme), will be enhanced to increase the maximum loan quantum to S$1 million. The Government's risk share will also be increased to 90% and SMEs may request for deferment of principal repayment for one year. 
  • Additionally, FIs may apply for low-cost funding through a new MAS Singapore Dollar facility, provided that the savings are passed on to the borrowers. 

One-year temporary bridging loan program for enterprises

  • Eligible enterprises of all industry sectors will be able to borrow up to S$5 million, with the interest rate capped at 5% p.a. The Government will co-share up to 90% of the borrowing risk and enterprises may request for deferment of principal repayment for one year.
  • FIs may similarly apply for low-cost funding through the new MAS Singapore Dollar facility

Enterprise Financing Scheme – Trade Loan program for Singapore-based enterprises

  • Singapore-based enterprises will be able to borrow up to S$10 million to finance short-term import, export and guarantee needs. The Government will co-share up to 90% of the borrowing risk.

Loan Insurance Scheme

  • SMEs that secure short-term trade loans by having commercial insurers co-share loan default with Participating Financial Institutions, will see the Government providing subsidies for loan insurance premiums of 80%. 

SG Together Enhancing Enterprise Resilience (STEER)

  • To help businesses tide over the challenges arising from COVID-19, the Government will increase the dollar for dollar matching; S$1 for every S$2 raised by funds set up by the Trade Associations and Chambers or industry groupings, up to S$1 million per fund.

Deferment of principal payments on secured term loans

  • SMEs can opt to defer principal payments on their secured term loans till end of year 2020.

Financing support for promising start-ups

  • The Government has set aside additional financing support of up to S$285 million for promising start-ups by co-investing with the private sector. This is on top of the S$300 million set aside under the Unity Budget for deep-tech start-ups.
  • In addition, the Government will set aside S$150 million to enhance the Startup SG Founder programme in phases to continue to spur innovation and entrepreneurship.

Sector-specific measures

(e.g. loans, moratorium on debt repayments…)

Aviation

  • The Government has allocated an additional S$187 million to extend the existing S$350 million aviation support in the Enhanced Aviation Support Package up to March 2021 to: (i) provide cost relief to airlines, ground handlers and cargo business such as landing and parking charges, rental rebates for airlines lounges and offices within Changi Airport, etc as well as (ii) maintain the minimum level of air connectivity to allow Singaporeans to return to Singapore and for transportation of goods.

Tourism

  • The Government will provide S$90 million for tourism recovery support to help the sector rebound strongly, following the COVID-19 pandemic. These include training the industry professionals with tourism grant and enhancing other tourism grants on qualifying costs to ensure a pipeline of events and products. Additionally, the Government will set aside S$320 million to grant tourism credits to Singaporeans to drive local spending for Singapore’s eateries, shops, hotels and leisure attractions.

Land Transport

  • The Government will provide a S$95 million Point-Point Support (P2P) Package for land transport operators, including (i) a Special Relief Fund payment of S$300 per vehicle per month will be given to taxi hirers and Private Hire Cars (PHC) drivers and (ii) P2P operator license fee waivers for 6 months.
    For all private bus operations, (i) one year road tax rebate and (ii) six months waiver of parking charges at government managed parking facilities for private bus owners to defray operating costs.

Maritime

  • Cruise ships and regional ferries with a port stay of not more than five days and passenger-carrying harbor craft will be given a 50% port dues concession from 1 March 2020 to 31 December 2020.
  • Additionally, there will be (i) an additional 35% rebate on counter rentals and overnight berthing for regional ferry operators for three months from March 2020 and (ii) 100% waiver of public license fees for passenger terminal operators for one year.

Arts & Culture

  • The Government will provide S$55 million to (i) safeguard jobs and retain capabilities, (ii) support capability development and (iii) step-up on digitalization efforts, in line with the Government’s Smart Nation Vision.
  • Employees in affected sectors such as tourism, aviation, retail and food services sectors will receive enhanced support through new redeployment programs under the Adapt and Grow Initiative. The funding support period for existing redeployment programs (i.e. Job Redesign Place-and-Train (PnT) Program for Hotel Industry and Job Redesign PnT Program for Retail Industry) will be extended from 3 months to a maximum of 6 months.

Financial: Managing cash flows and raising funds for S-REITs

  • On 16 April 2020, the Government announced new measures to provide real estate investment trusts listed on the Singapore Exchange (S-REITs) with greater flexibility to manage their cash flows and raise funds. The measures comprise:
    • An extension of the deadline for distribution of taxable income: The timeline for S-REITs to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income (derived in FY 2020) has been extended from 3 months to 12 months (after end of FY 2020) to qualify for tax transparency.
    • Raising of the leverage limit: The leverage limit for S-REITs will be raised from 45% to 50% to provide flexibility to manage capital structure and raise debt financing.
    • A deferment of new regulatory requirements by the MAS: The implementation of new minimum interest coverage ratio requirement of 2.5 times has been deferred to 1 January 2022.
  • The above measures comes with the change that allows Mainboard issuers to seek a general mandate for issuance of pro-rata shares and convertible securities of up to 100%, raised from 50% previously, subject to meeting certain conditions.

Built Environment

  • The Government will co-share additional costs incurred by businesses to meet additional safety requirements when resuming existing infrastructure projects.

Rental waivers for qualifying tenants in public properties

  • Hawkers and Markets managed by the National Environment Agency will be provided five months worth of rental waiver, with a minimum waiver of $200 per month.
  • Commercial tenants such as those providing commercial accommodation, retail, F&B, recreation, entertainment, healthcare and other services, managed or owned by other government bodies will be provided four months rental waiver.
  • Other non-residential tenants in premises managed by government bodies, that are used for industrial or agricultural purpose, or as an office, a business or science park, or a petrol station who currently do not pay Property Tax, will be provided two months rental waiver.

Rental relief for SME tenants in private non-residential properties

  • In addition to the PTR (see earlier section), SME tenants (i.e. not more than S$100 million in annual turnover) with qualifying leases or licenses commencing before 25 March 2020 will also receive a cash grant (via disbursement through their landlords). The cash grant differs according to the type of property leased, as follows:
    • Qualifying commercial properties (e.g. shops) - about 0.8 month’s of rent.
    • Other non-residential properties (e.g. industrial and office properties) - about 0.64 month’s of rent.

SME property owners who run a trade or business on their own property will also be eligible for the new cash grant.

Legal measures

Legal – COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Bill effective 7 April 2020

Inability to perform contracts due to COVID-19

  • Provided that a notification for relief has been served on the other party of the contract, the relief will be available where a party is unable to perform a scheduled contract due on or after 1 February 2020 (but not entered into or renewed on or after 25 March 2020, other than automatically), and that inability is due to a material extent caused by COVID-19 (assessors will be appointed to make a final determination in cases of dispute).
  • Additional relief is made available for inability to perform event-contracts or tourism-related contracts, where the deposits shall not be forfeited, unless (i) the notification for relief is withdrawn or (ii) an assessor has made a determination that the forfeiture of the deposits (in part or whole) is just and equitable based on the circumstances of the case.

Higher Threshold for Bankruptcy and Insolvency Proceedings

  • The Bill has introduced higher threshold for personal bankruptcy and corporate insolvency proceedings as follow:
Type Changes involving Before Introduced
Bankruptcy applications for individuals Debt quantum S$15,000 S$60,000
Period for a debtor to satisfy a creditor’s statutory demand 21 days
6 months
Unsuitability for debt repayment scheme S$100,000 S$250,000
Winding up applications for companies (only applicable to applications after 7 April 2020) Debt quantum S$10,000 S$100,000
Statutory demands 3 weeks 6 months


Conduct of Meetings

  • Where personal attendance at any meetings is required by law or legal instrument, such as annual general meeting, board of directors’ meeting, etc, an alternative arrangement such as electronic communication, video conferencing, tele-conferencing or other electronic means will be accepted, till such time this temporary measure is lifted.

Imposing obligations on property owners to pass on the PTR in full to tenants

  • The new Bill imposes a duty on owners to transfer the benefit received from any reduction in property tax on any non-residential property from prescribed property tax remissions given in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (“benefit”) to tenants of the property. 
  • The provisions would also allow tenants to take action against the landlord for failing to do so, and for landlords and tenants to bring disputes in relation to the transfer of the benefit before a Valuation Review Panel (“Panel”). Otherwise, an owner who, without reasonable excuse, fails to fulfil any one of the Obligations shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding S$5,000.

Legal – COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Amendment) Bill passed on 5 June 2020 (to come into force by end-July 2020)

Imposing obligations on property owners to grant rental waivers to tenants

  • This new bill will mandate property owners to grant relevant rental waivers to qualifying commercial SME tenants who have suffered a significant revenue drop due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The reliefs will be shared equally between the owners and the Government. 

Temporary relief from onerous contractual terms

  • The Bill will cover provisions on temporary relief from onerous contractual terms such as excessive late payment interest or charges, and also allow tenants to repay their arrears through instalments.

Other measures and sources

Medium and longer-term measures

Apart from the short-term measures to combat the negative economic impact brought about by COVID-19, the Government also announced certain medium and longer-term measures, amongst others, announced/ enhanced include:

  • The Government is aiming to reach out to 3,000 SMEs with the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) that provides maximum support level of up to 90% support in three areas: Core Capabilities, Innovation and Productivity, and Market Access.
  • The Enterprise Leadership for Transformation (ELT), aimed at business leaders with the ambition and commitment to transform their business, is a three-year pilot focused on helping the professional growth of SME business leaders.
  • Enhancement to the Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) grant, a broad-based enterprise grant scheme that provides 70% funding for eligible costs incurred by SMEs (up till 31 March 2023) taking their first steps overseas, with grant cap increased from S$20,000 per year to S$100,000 per new market per company.
  • Enhancement to the Double Tax Deduction for Internationalization (DTDi) scheme that gives businesses an automatic 200% tax deduction on qualifying expenditure of up to S$150,000 incurred on specified activities (till 31 December 2025), which have been expanded to include new categories of expenses.
  • The New Skills Future Enterprise Credits, capped at S$10,000 per enterprise, will help enterprises defray 90% of out-of-pocket costs of business transformation, job redesign and skills training. The Government will also provide higher course fee subsidies of 90% and up to $10 hourly absentee payroll to encourage enterprises to continue with developing their employees.
  • The expansion of the Productivity Solutions Grant, which provides maximum support level of up to 80% supports enterprises to adopt pre-approved IT solutions and equipment, to include job redesign consultancy services.
  • The tightening and extension of the Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) scheme (extended till 31 December 2025) to provide a continuous drive to encourage and support enterprises, especially SMEs, to continue to transform and grow via strategic acquisitions.

Support for digital transformation

  • To encourage adoption of e-payment and digital solutions, a bonus of S$300 per month over 5 months will be given to stall holders in hawker centers, wet markets, coffee shops and industrial canteens, who adopt the e-payment solution. Additionally, the Government will also bear transaction fees (i.e. merchant discount rates payable) until 31 December 2023.
  • The Digital Resilience Bonus will provide additional monetary assistance of up to S$10,000 to help businesses in Food services and Retail sectors digitalise with PayNow Corporate, e-invoicing, business process or e-commerce solutions and other advanced digital solutions.

Support for charities and social service agencies

  • The Enhanced Fund-Raising Program provides a dollar-for-dollar matching of donations raised by qualifying charities between 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, capped at S$250,000 per charity.
  • There will be one-off top-up to the Invictus Fund to help agencies deliver social services to vulnerable groups during COVID-19.

Main sources of information

Measures to ease the lockdown

  • As the COVID-19 situation gradually stabilised in recent weeks, the Government announced that Singapore will transition into Phase 2 of the re-opening of the economy on 19 June 2020. More details on the re-opening phases are set out below.
  • With the declining trend in the average number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per day in the community and foreign worker dormitories, the Government has announced that Singapore’s economy will be reopened in the following phases:
    • Phase 1 (from 1 June to 18 June 2020) - To focus on a gradual re-opening of economic activities that do not pose high risks of transmission. From 2 June 2020, specified businesses may resume operations with safe distancing measures in place. Non-essential activities and social gatherings continue to be prohibited, with the exception of marriage solemnisations, funerals and wakes subject to a maximum attendance of 10 people.
    • Phase 2 (from 19 June 2020 onwards) – Non-essential activities and social gatherings can resume as long as hygiene and safe management principles are in place, i.e. safe distancing between individuals/ groups of one metre at all times and no mixing between groups (limited to five pax). Activities allowed to resume are: Retail businesses (physical outlets allowed); dine-in at food and beverage outlets (live music, television, video screenings and sale/ consumption of alcohol after 2230hrs are not allowed); personal health and wellness activities; home-based services; tuition and other private enrichment classes (singing or voice training classes will not resume); sports, parks and other public facilities (including similar facilities in private settings, e.g. condominiums); registered clubs and societies; all healthcare services (including face-to-face visitations at residential facilities for the elderly); and large-scale and entertainment venues (only cinemas, public libraries, certain museums and place of worship are allowed, subject to safe management measures/ restrictions). Larger establishments such as malls or bigger retail outlets should also ensure that large crowds do not build up, and restrict capacity when necessary.
    • Phase 3 (awaiting further announcements by the Government) - More social gatherings and business activities will resume, although gathering sizes will still be limited to prevent large clusters from forming. Safe distancing measures will continue to be implemented throughout this period. Singapore will gradually re-open its borders to allow essential travel to take place, while maintaining the necessary precautions and safeguards. Further details to be made available in the future, depending on the ongoing development of the COVID-19 situation.

Contact us

Tax & Legal: Ajay Sanganeria – asanganeria@kpmg.com.sg
Restructuring:  Bob Yap – byap@kpmg.com.sg