6 April 2020
1 The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our economy and disrupted livelihoods, just as it has affected other countries.
2 Some groups inadvertently feel its impact more immediately and acutely. For example, low-income workers with little savings may need additional financial help if their work is affected. Others with unique care needs, such as persons with limited mobility or disabilities, may worry if services such as meal deliveries or home nursing would be disrupted during the COVID-19 crisis.
3 Let me highlight a few key efforts to help those affected by COVID-19.
4 First, I would like to assure Members that essential services such as the Social Service Offices (SSOs), selected senior care centres, residential and home-based care services, and community mental health services will continue to provide support for their clients, with precautionary measures in place. Though we have temporarily halted activities at Senior Activity Centres as added precaution for seniors, the centres' staff continue to watch over the seniors within their service boundaries and check in on them remotely where necessary.
5 Second, MSF and other Government agencies have stepped up measures to address various needs arising from COVID-19.
• Our SSOs proactively contact past or present ComCare clients who have been issued Quarantine Orders or Stay Home Notices (SHNs) to see if they require any financial assistance, and facilitate their applications where needed. We have also made the application process more convenient by allowing them to submit their documents electronically. We also work with the People's Association to provide other forms of help, such as assistance buying food and groceries, if the person under quarantine or SHN does not have any such support from their families, neighbours, or other parties.
• The Silver Generation Office reaches out to vulnerable seniors such as those living alone or those who are frail. Since last month, Silver Generation Ambassadors have started visiting these seniors in their homes to communicate COVID-19 precautionary measures, such as hygiene tips and social distancing. They also identify seniors who require additional assistance during this period, and link them up with the appropriate social service agencies and service providers to ensure that their needs are met.
6 Third, the Finance Minister recently announced our second care and support package to help Singaporeans tide over the economic impact of the COVID-19 situation. Those who require more help this period will benefit more. This includes:
• New COVID-19 Support Grant for those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19;
• Relief for self-employed persons; and
• Additional flexibility for ComCare, such as providing a longer duration of assistance to low-income workers.
7 For individuals who require employment assistance, Workforce Singapore (WSG) and NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) offer a range of employment facilitation services and programmes under the Adapt & Grow initiative.
8 We are also continuing our efforts to make social services and help more comprehensive, convenient, and coordinated. For example, in the area of food insecurity, we have convened a multi-sector workgroup comprising food organisations, volunteer groups, and government agencies to address issues of food waste and distribution inefficiencies. Members of the workgroup are supporting one another to keep their operations going during this period, highlighting the spirit of partnership that serves us well in times like this. Such partnerships complement ongoing schemes such as ComCare that assist low-income households with daily living expenses including food, and MOE's Financial Assistance Scheme for school-going children in lower-income families.
9 The COVID-19 pandemic has also underscored the importance of a whole-of-society approach to tackle crisis. We see an outpouring of support from corporates, unions, volunteer groups, grassroots, and religious groups to support those in need. Many have also donated generously to The Courage Fund to support our healthcare and frontline workers, and lower-income families affected by COVID-19. The NTUC Care Fund has announced a new scheme to provide up to $300 in one-off cash relief for their union members who have lost income due to the outbreak. These are just some examples of many instances of the community rallying to support each other.
10 And this is important, because caring for one another and especially the vulnerable is not simply a collective responsibility, but a national imperative during crisis. Beyond cushioning the economic impact, it is also about sustaining relationships and strengthening our social capital as a collective. COVID-19 may have brought challenges for us, but this is also an opportunity for us to strengthen our communal bonds and build a stronger Singapore for all.