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Covid-19: Govt sets aside S$27m more to aid taxi, private-hire car drivers affected by restrictions

SINGAPORE — In the face of sharp falls in ridership since tougher measures to combat Covid-19 kicked in on Sunday (May 16), the Government has set aside an extra S$27 million to tide taxi and private-hire car drivers over this period of lower demand.

The Government is providing more assistance to taxi and private-hire car drivers as their business is further eroded by the Phase Two (heightened alert) restrictions.

The Government is providing more assistance to taxi and private-hire car drivers as their business is further eroded by the Phase Two (heightened alert) restrictions.

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  • Some 56,000 drivers will get an extra S$10 per vehicle daily from May 16 to end June
  • The support would be issued through the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund
  • In total, drivers will receive S$25 per vehicle each day, up from S$15 per vehicle
  • This works out to S$750 funding per vehicle monthly until the end of June

 

SINGAPORE — In the face of sharp falls in ridership since tougher measures to combat Covid-19 kicked in on Sunday (May 16), the Government has set aside an extra S$27 million to tide taxi and private-hire car drivers over this period of lower demand.

This means some 56,000 drivers – about 16,000 taxi drivers and 40,000 private-hire drivers – will get an extra S$10 per vehicle daily through the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund from May 16 to the end of June.

This is on top of the S$188 million put aside by the Government for payments under the fund from January to June.

In total, drivers will receive S$25 per vehicle each day, up from the present S$15 per vehicle. This works out to S$750 funding per vehicle per month until the end of June.

All eligible private-hire and taxi drivers will automatically receive the top-up and do not need to apply.

When announcing this over Zoom on Friday, Transport Minister S Iswaran said the Government decided to ramp up its support for the industry seeing taxi and private-hire car ridership had fallen to about 55 per cent of pre-Covid levels a few days ago.

And this was a decrease from about 80 per cent of pre-Covid levels just before Sunday’s implementation of the tighter measures, which prohibit dining-in, restrict social gatherings to two and make working from home a default.

He added that this drop in ridership had not taken into account the impact brought about by newer measures, such as full home-based learning for primary, secondary, junior college and Millennia Institute students, which kicked in on Wednesday.

“We recognise that our drivers need assistance that is targeted on an urgent basis to help them through this challenging period. And this is also to ensure that our drivers can continue to provide essential taxi and private-hire car services for our commuters,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Iswaran revealed that the authorities are already looking into a further extension of the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund beyond the current tranche and will make another announcement on this in due course.

Elaborating on this in a press release, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said such an extension was being contemplated given that ridership would “likely to take time to recover” after the end of the period of heightened alert.

The Government first dished out S$45 million in support for the point-to-point transportation sector and its drivers in February last year. It subsequently pumped another S$95 million into the industry in March last year, followed by S$112 million last September.

Then last December, LTA announced the formation of the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund, which would replace the Special Relief Fund for taxi and private-hire car drivers from January this year.

Then, LTA had said that the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund would cost S$133 million, in addition to S$55 million already committed to the Special Relief Fund, which would be transferred over from January.

Under the new grant, drivers had received S$600 per vehicle every month from January to March this year. This has been reduced to S$450 a month from April to June.

On a company level, firms such as ComfortDelGro had offered rental waivers of 15 per cent, while Grab reduced its upfront commission rate by 50 per cent and waived 30 per cent of the rental fee for drivers using GrabRentals for the period of April 6 to May 4 last year.

But a number of firms started introducing various forms of relief to drivers again earlier this week after assessing that taxi and ride hailing demand would drop quite significantly. ComfortDelGro had, for instance, increased its daily taxi rental waiver to 50 per cent per taxi from May 18 to June 13, up from 15 per cent previously.

Noting that taxi operators have pledged around S$28 million in additional taxi rental discounts in total, and that Gojek had reduced commissions for its drivers, LTA said operators will be releasing details of their assistance to their drivers.

LTA said it would let operators release details of their assistance to their drivers on their own.

Mr Iswaran told reporters that drivers will start receiving the added support from the Government by the end of this month as “LTA needs a few days to work out the operational details with the taxi and private-hire car operators to implement this enhanced support”.

He said drivers who switched to taking on delivery jobs to supplement their income can benefit from a 10-minute extension to the 10-minute grace period at car parks managed by the Housing and Development Board and the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which would kick in on Sunday.

“This, I think, will be helpful because the dwell time for our taxi drivers and private-hire car drivers will increase if they are taking delivery jobs. It's important that we are able to accommodate that within this framework, and that's what we intend to do,” he said.

LTA, meanwhile, addressed the concerns of drivers who are concerned about potential loss of income should they be served a quarantine order after coming into close contact with those who are tested positive for Covid-19.

These drivers, it said, can continue to tap schemes such as the Health Ministry’s Quarantine Order Allowance Scheme, as well as other relief schemes provided by their taxi and private-hire car operators.

T

hose who are members of the National Taxi Association (NTA) and National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA), which are affiliated to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), can also get a one-off S$200 assistance, it added.

NTUC director Yeo Wan Ling, who is advisor to NTA and NPHVA, said the higher rate of support, at S$25 per day per vehicle, would be a relief to drivers as the past week had been “really tough” for them.

“With the tightened measures such as no dining out, work-from-home as the default and schools switching to home-based learning, the earnings of our drivers have been affected greatly,” said the Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

“I’m glad that the relevant Government agencies took in ground concerns that NTUC, NTA and NPHVA have raised to them.”

Adding that she is happy that LTA is considering an extension of the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund beyond June, Ms Yeo said: “We will continue to share ground feedback on this.”

She pointed out that another area that will help drivers would be if Electronic Road Pricing charges remain at S$0 on arterial roads, including those within the Central Business District.

Related topics

Covid-19 taxi drivers private-hire cars coronavirus

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