5 May 2020
Ms Anthea Ong
Nominated Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what is the total amount from the Unity, Resilience, and Solidarity Budgets that is allocated for increased flexibilities to ComCare due to COVID-19 and how much of this has been utilised; (b) what are the ways in which these increased flexibilities have been exercised and to what extent; and (c) given the protracted duration of the financial impact from COVID-19, whether the Ministry will consider widening the income eligibility criteria for ComCare schemes to be closer to those for the Temporary Relief Fund and COVID-19 Support Grant.
Including the commitment from the Unity Budget and interest from the ComCare Endowment Fund, the Ministry of Finance committed about $180 million for ComCare in FY2020. This is an increase of about 9% from the previous financial year. As the global economic situation rapidly deteriorated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government committed another $60 million for increased ComCare flexibility under the Resilience Budget in March. In sum, the total budget for ComCare in FY2020 is about $240 million.
2 Social Service Offices (SSOs) have been exercising flexibility to provide immediate assistance to affected individuals through ComCare Interim Assistance. In April 2020, SSOs approved 125 applications for ComCare Interim Assistance. This is higher than the monthly average of 72 approved applications in the preceding six months (from October 2019 to March 2020).
3 SSOs are also providing a longer duration of support for ComCare households, which will provide greater peace of mind to families and individuals whose livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19 as they seek new jobs or retraining opportunities. Since April 2020, SSOs have been providing at least six months of assistance to new recipients of ComCare Short-to-Medium-Term Assistance (SMTA). In April 2020, SSOs approved 1,441 applications with six months of assistance or longer, which is higher than the monthly average of 946 approved applications with six months of assistance or longer in the preceding six months (from October 2019 to March 2020).
4 Households who are already on ComCare will also have their assistance automatically extended for a further six months without them having to approach the SSOs. If any of these households face greater needs during this period, they can contact our SSOs who will assess their circumstances and provide the necessary support. Our SSOs can conduct their interview and assessment process electronically, and applicants can submit their supporting documents via email.
5 ComCare SMTA and Interim Assistance have income eligibility criteria of a monthly household income of $1900 and below and per capita household income of $650 and below. These are not hard thresholds and each case is considered on its own merit. SSOs take into account the applicants’ circumstances and needs and exercise flexibility as needed to provide the necessary financial assistance and social support.
6 To help lower- and middle-income households affected by COVID-19 tide through their financial challenges, the Government has also introduced several help schemes. The Temporary Relief Fund provided one-off assistance in the month of April. From May, the COVID-19 Support Grant will help affected employees, while the Self-Employed Persons Income Relief Scheme will support self-employed persons.
7 These measures are part of Government’s response to mitigate the broad-based impact of COVID-19 on our population. They complement the mainstay of our social safety nets, including ComCare. The Government will continue to assess the situation and provide more support to affected Singaporeans if needed.