Temporary relief for freelancers as they get first S$3,000 payout from Government
When freelance instructor Nurna received a notification on Wednesday (May 27) afternoon that she will be receiving S$3,000 from the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs), she was very relieved. “I am thankful and happy because all this can help my parents pay their bills as well as my school fees,” the 35-year-old said.
SINGAPORE — When freelance instructor Nurna received a notification on Wednesday (May 27) afternoon that she will be receiving S$3,000 from the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs), she was very relieved.
“I am thankful and happy because all this can help my parents pay their bills as well as my school fees,” the 35-year-old said.
Ms Nurna, who did not want to give her family name, teaches coding and programming at schools on a freelance basis and is pursuing a part-time undergraduate degree in social work.
She is among the more than 117,000 self-employed persons and freelancers who received or will be receiving their first payout of S$3,000 under Sirs from Wednesday onwards.
Two more payouts of the same amount will be given in July and October this year.
The Government announced the scheme in March as part of a supplementary support package of the national budget, to help self-employed individuals such as taxi drivers, private hire car drivers and real estate agents tide over their loss of earnings during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Those who meet the criteria, which includes earning a net trade income of no more than S$100,000 a year, and living in a property with an annual value of no more than S$21,000, will automatically qualify for the payout. Those who miss out narrowly on the criteria may appeal.
The Ministry of Manpower and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said in a joint statement on Thursday that more than S$360 million will be disbursed in the first payment.
LOSS OF INCOME
Of the six self-employed persons approached by TODAY, four said that it was much needed while the other two, both taxi drivers, felt that it would not be enough to tide them over.
Ms Nurna, who was one of the four, said that she has had zero income since March, with schools cancelling their coding workshops.
She typically earns S$1,000 a year that goes towards her university fees and utilities bills at home, which her parents co-pays as well.
For freelance graphic designer Joe Chan, 46, the money will help him to “breathe a little easier”.
With his monthly salary of S$3,000 down to zero due to design projects being put on hold, Mr Chan will be using most of the payout to cover his parents’ medical bills and health insurance — his main financial commitments.
He will rely on the next two payouts and his savings to get his family through the rest of the year.
For Ms Noor-el Huda, a freelance speech and drama trainer in her 50s, the money will help her to pay off her two-room HDB flat mortgage and conservancy changes which amount to S$500 a month, as well as her insurance premium payments.
She said that her usual monthly income of S$1,500 has been reduced to zero since April. Projects have dried up due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, if she “scrimps and saves”, the payouts coupled with her personal savings will help her to survive the next nine months.
NOT ENOUGH TO GET BY
However, for Mr Andy Kwan, 37, a driver with Prime Taxi, the S$3,000 will not last his family even for a month.
He is the sole breadwinner in a family of eight, and his monthly earnings have dropped from S$3,000 to less than S$1,000 since February.
This is despite taking up delivery jobs and paying a discounted taxi rental rate. As a result, he has fallen several months behind on his housing loan and other bills.
While the S$3,000 will help him offset some of this debt, Mr Kwan said that he will be left with little to support his family in the coming month. He applied for financial aid with non-profit group Chinese Development Assistance Council and now receives around S$400 each month.
Taxi driver Kirsty Foo, 60, said that the payout will not be sufficient to support herself and her father, whom she has admitted to a nursing home for about S$500 a month.
Her monthly salary has dropped from around S$1,800 to S$600 after the outbreak.
While she had initially thought that the money would be enough to tide her through this period, she is less certain now with her employer Comfort DelGro’s announcement on Thursday that it will stop its full rental waivers for drivers from June 2 and will charge half of its usual rental fees.
The new rental rates mean that she will have to “tighten her belt”, Ms Foo said.
Even though there was no other financial support for the self-employed announced in the third supplementary national budget on Tuesday, the freelancers told TODAY that they were not disappointed.
Ms Foo said: “You cannot expect (the Government) to feed us everytime. The whole of Singapore needs to be taken care of… I cannot just keep complaining about the Government. I have to try and take everything step by step.”