Covid-19 aid: S'poreans can make early use of $500 SkillsFuture Credit top-up, all employers can get training support

SINGAPORE – From May, all employers who send their workers for selected training programmes can receive additional support from SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) funding, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced on Thursday (March 26).

They will receive enhanced absentee payroll support at 90 per cent of hourly basic salary, capped at $10 per hour, up from 80 per cent.

The measure will cover eligible courses that start before Jan 1, 2021, to provide additional cash flow relief for employers in view of the worsening coronavirus situation.

Currently, such support has only been provided for sectors directly affected by the Covid-19 outbreak such as the aviation, tourism, food services and retail trade sectors, and lasts for a shorter period of three months.

From April 1, the enhanced absentee payroll rates will be extended to the land transport and arts and culture sectors. They will also be eligible for enhanced course fee support of up to 90 per cent of course fees, up from a baseline rate of 50 per cent. 

In the Budget in February, it was announced that a one-off SkillsFuture Credit top-up of $500 for Singaporeans aged 25 years and above would be made available from October. Singaporeans will now be able to make early use of the top-up for selected courses from April 1, ahead of its full implementation date, said Mr Heng.  

“I hope this will help many more workers, job seekers, and self-employed persons make use of the down time to learn, develop new skills, and stay employable,” he said.

Mr Heng also emphasised the need to build economic resilience at all levels, including in research and development (R&D), food supply and at the industry level.

The matching rate under the SG Together Enhancing Enterprise Resilience (Steer) programme will now be doubled, with Enterprise Singapore matching $1 for every $2 raised through qualifying industry-led initiatives, he said. The programme supports industry-led initiatives to help companies tide over economic uncertainties, and build longer-term capabilities.

Funds set up by trade associations and chambers (TACs) or other industry groupings to help businesses survive and thrive amid the coronavirus outbreak can apply for the programme.

Examples of what the funds can be used for include helping firms to defray costs such as rental and wages, marketing and branding and productivity solutions.

Mr Heng also urged businesses to make use of this down time to digitalise, restructure and transform.

The SMEs Go Digital Programme, which supports businesses in building technological capabilities, will be enhanced to help SMEs implement safe distancing and business continuity measures.

The maximum support levels for the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) and the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) will be raised to 80 per cent and 90 per cent respectively to spur transformation, he said. The enhancements to these three schemes will last till December (2020).

The PSG defrays the costs for adoption of pre-approved digital solutions, while the EDG encourages the adoption of technology and innovation to increase productivity.

The Covid-19 outbreak has also reinforced the importance of investing in R&D to prepare for critical challenges, such as in managing pandemics and ensuring food security, said Mr Heng. More details on the Government’s R&D investments under its masterplan for research, innovation and enterprise will be provided towards the end of the financial year, he said.

Singapore is also building up its national stockpile of health supplies, including masks and hand sanitisers, said Mr Heng. He added that the country is strengthening its food resilience for the long term and aims to produce 30 per cent of its nutritional needs by 2030, up from less than 10 per cent today.

“Some may be concerned about the impact on our food supplies, arising from supply chain disruptions. We need not worry,” he said, noting that Singapore has in place a robust, multi-pronged strategy to ensure that it continues to have an adequate supply of safe food.

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