26 Support Schemes and Business Grants for SMEs and SEPs: Singapore Edition

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“The more stringent the measures we put in place to keep the number of cases down, the bigger the impact on our economy. In the immediate term, this is a trade-off between protecting lives and protecting the economy that we must all accept — not just in Singapore, but around the world.”

Mr Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore.

With the stringent measures in place, a decline of 60% in consumer spending was observed, which can cause a significant spike in unemployment. To prevent that from happening, our government, along with many other corporations, have come up with various support packages and schemes to help businesses tide through this pandemic, if not thrive.

On 26th May, the fourth stimulus package to help cushion the impact of CoVid- 19 was announced by the Singapore government. We have listed them here for your convenience:

Grants for Business Expansion (Overseas Expansion)

To encourage companies to expand their business overseas, government provide grants for businesses as a reward. Here are some grants that the government provide:

This grant supports Singapore companies who want to upgrade their business, innovate or venture overseas.

  • This grant funds up to 80% of qualifying overseas project costs, namely third-party consultancy fees, software and equipment, and internal human resource cost to support offshore businesses.

SMEs looking to take their businesses overseas will receive a boost with the MRA grant.

  • Funding of up to 70% of eligible costs, capped at S$100,000 per company per new market from 1st April 2020 to 31st March 2023.

Loans for Businesses

For companies that want to expand to their business but do not have enough funding, the government provides loans to the companies which can be returned in installments. The compiled list of loans that government provide are as such:

Enterprises can secure short-term trade financing loans via the Loan Insurance Scheme (LIS) from Participating Financial Institutions (PFI).

EFS will enable Singapore enterprises to access financing more readily through six stages of growth.

  • SME working capital loan: up to S$1 million / borrower
  • SME Fixed Assets Loan: S$30 million / borrower group
  • Venture Debt Loan: S$5 million / borrower group
  • Trade Loan: S$10 million / borrower group
  • Project Loan: S$50 million / borrower group
  • Mergers & Acquisitions Loan: S$50 million / borrower group

Grants for Business Upgrading

Under grants for business upgrading are support schemes or grants that helps to enhance business workflow. They are:

SMEs Go Digital is a programme designed to help SMEs transform digitally. From digital start packs to business grants, to subsidised digital project management services, and even digital plans for various industries, there are sufficient resources to assist SMEs to be more robust digitally.

  • The sector-specific Industry Digital Plans (IDPs) provide SMEs with a step-by-step guide on digital solutions as well as relevant training.
  • A list of pre-approved digital solutions by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) for SMEs can be found on Tech Depot.
Helping one another in the society to improve the economy

The Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) supports companies keen on adopting IT solutions and equipment to enhance business processes.

  • PSG covers 80% of the cost for sector-specific solutions such as retail, food, logistics, precision engineering, construction, landscaping industries as well as cross-sector areas of customer management, data analytics, financial management and inventory tracking.

This scheme encourages companies to sustain implementation of work-from-home and/or staggered hours beyond mandatory social distancing regulations.

  • The maximum claim amount for WLG remains at $70,000 per company (i.e. $2,000 per employee, up to 35 employees).

Financial Support for Businesses

Financial support for businesses are funds that the government provides for businesses to tide over CoVid-19. Especially if the business are impacted by CoVid-19 in terms of sales and do not have enough money to pay the taxes, employee’s salary or rentals. Here are some of the funding that government provide:

All Singaporean employees and self-employed persons who received Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) payments in Work Year 2019 will receive a Workfare Special Payment (WSP) in 2020.

  • The WSP will provide a cash payout of $3,000 for all eligible Singaporeans, paid over two equal payments of $1,500 each, in July and October 2020.
  • The enhanced WSP will provide additional support for low-wage workers aged 35 and above in 2019.

This scheme supports self-employed persons (SEPs) affected by COVID-19 to tide through this period of economic uncertainty.

  • SEPs will receive three cash payments of $3,000 each in end-May, July and October 2020.
  • SEPs who earn an income of no more than $2,300 per month from employment work will be automatically included; and
    • The Annual Value (AV) of a property threshold will be raised from $13,000 to $21,000, including those living in condominiums and other private properties.

The TBLP provides access to working capital for business needs through loan programmes.

  • Borrow up to $5 million under the TBLP, with the interest rate capped at 5% p.a.
  • Apply for up to 1-year deferral of principal repayment to help manage their debt, subject to assessment by the PFIs.

Through WCS, businesses will receive Government support to manage rising labour costs.

  • Government co-funding ratios for wage increases in 2019 and 2020 will be 20% and 15% respectively. The qualifying gross wage ceiling will be $5,000 for both years.

Non-residential properties (“qualifying properties”) will be granted property tax rebate for the period of 1st January 2020 to 31st December 2020.

  • Owners of qualifying properties will be granted rebates of up to 100% on their property tax payable.

The rental waivers are to help businesses cushion the impact of COVID-19.

  • Four months’ rental waiver for commercial tenants in government-owned/managed residential premises.
  • Two months’ rental waiver for non-resident tenants in government-owned/managed residential premises.
Companies will be granted a 25% Corporate Income Tax Rebate capped at $15,000 regardless if it is a local or foreign company.
Through these training programmes funding, the government hopes to improve the skills of Singapore’s workforce to allow companies to adapt to the changing environment amidst CoVid-19. Here are the funding that government provides:

Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has set up a training fund for Self-Employed Persons (SEPs). This helps SEPs earn as they train, providing new skills and training allowances to help them be future-ready.

  • SEP enhanced training allowance for courses starting between 1st May – 31st December 2020: $10/hr
Learning and upgrading your skills with the resources that is provided

The SFEC encourages employers to invest in enterprise transformation where their employees can upgrade themselves.

  • Eligible employers will receive a one-off S$10,000 credit to cover up to 90% of out-of-pocket expenses on qualifying costs for supportable initiatives, over and above the support levels of existing schemes.
  • S$3,000 of the credit should be used for workforce transformation programmes, and employers can only use up to S$7,000 for enterprise transformation. There is no cap on the amount that can be used for workforce transformation.
The ELT is a one-year programme that supports business leaders of promising SMEs to develop business growth capabilities. Administered by a network of partners including Institutes of Higher Learning, financial institutions, and industry experts.
  • Eligible enterprises can qualify for up to 90% funding of programme fees.

Jobs Portals

To aid employers in finding more manpower for their business, the government has provided job portals for employers to recruit online. Here are the job portals:

Sourcing for workers through online application and virtual interviews

This site lists job opportunities with immediate vacancies, featuring jobs involved in the fight against CoVid as well as openings from businesses whose workforce supply is disrupted during this period.

  • Employers would be able to post jobs and interact with jobseekers virtually for interviews too.
This allows companies to bring in new graduates as trainees to support their business needs, as they tap on government support during the traineeship period.
  • The government will co-fund 80% of the training allowance.
  • The estimated monthly training allowance for each qualification is pegged to 50-70% of median starting salaries.

Financial Support for Manpower

Some businesses are facing a lack of manpower due to restrictions to travel or circuit breaker requirements. Thus, the government is offering the funding stated below to help businesses retain or recruit employees:

JSS payouts are intended to offset and protect local employees’ wages. Employers must act responsibly and fairly, taking reference from the tripartite advisory on salary and leave arrangements during the circuit breaker period.

  • Wage support for Apr and May 2020 will be topped-up to 75% for all firms, regardless of sector.
  • Employers not yet allowed to resume operations after easing of the circuit breaker will continue to receive 75% wage support, during the period for which they are not allowed to resume operations, or until Aug 2020, whichever is earlier.
  • Taxpayers who have filed Income Tax Returns for Year of Assessment (YA) 2020 and received electronic Notice of Assessment (i.e. eNOA or tax bill) would be able to apply to defer tax payment by three months.

There will be a hiring incentive for employers who employ domestic workers who have completed eligible traineeship and training programmes, regardless of age.

  • Workers under the age of 40 – 20% of the monthly salary for six months, capped at $6,000 in total.
  • Workers 40 and above – 40% of the monthly salary for six months, capped at $12,000 in total.

Increase in CPF contribution rates for senior workers deferred by one year, from 1st January 2021 to 1st January 2022.

This scheme is to help FDW employers with Stay-Home-Notice (SHN) requirements because of CoVid-19.

  • Employers whose FDWs served the SHN at an alternative accommodation (dormitories, hostels or hotels) can apply for $60 support per day per affected FDW.
  • Their levies will also be waived during the FDW’s SHN period of 14 days.

Business employers that are not on Ministry of Trade and Industry’s (MTI) permitted list to resume operations (Check on GoBusiness Portal), as well as businesses in the Construction, Marine Shipyard and Process sectors are eligible for levy rebates and waivers.

  • A flat rate of $750 in June 2020 and $375 in July for each S Pass or Work Permit holder in your employment as at 1st June 2020 and 1st July 2020 respectively.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is providing support to help companies and self-employed persons (SEPs) who are affected by LOA and SHN requirements:

  • SEPs will receive $100 daily for the required duration of LOA or SHN.
  • Employers will receive $100 daily per worker who returned between 14th March 2020 and 20th March 2020 and was placed on company-imposed LOA while not being required to serve mandatory SHN.
  • Employers will receive $100 daily per affected worker for the required duration of LOA or SHN granted to the worker.
  • Also, eligible employers will automatically qualify for levy waiver for affected foreign workers for the LOA or SHN period.
Finding various business support or grants online to help with your businesses

Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has introduced temporary schemes to help companies manage the workforce disruptions.

  • Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will have an additional three months to make levy payments.
  • And up to 5 months to pay for the foreign worker levy from the month it is incurred before revocation action kicks in.
  • Levy waiver for up to 60 days for foreign workers who go on overseas home leave for at least seven consecutive days.
  • MOM will extend the levy waiver period to up to 90 days with immediate effect for foreign workers who are currently on overseas leave.
  • An employer who sends their foreign workers home from now till end-2020 will also be eligible for levy waiver, subject to the 90-day cap.
  • A temporary 6-month scheme will be introduced from 1st April 2020 to refund unused staff-year entitlements(MYEs) due to work disruptions from COVID-19. Firms have the flexibility to use the refunded MYE within one year to hire new workers or renew existing ones.
  • Companies in the manufacturing and services sectors will be allowed to employ existing PRC Work Permit holders who are in Singapore, with the agreement of their current employers.
  • Inter-sectoral transfer of foreign workers for all sectors and transfers of foreign workers whose Work Permits are nearing expiry for all industries would also be allowed subject to eligibility.

Such times demand organisations to be innovative in findings new ways to overcome current obstacles. We hope that with these support schemes in place, businesses, however big or small, will continue to sustain business operations and hopefully thrive.

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