Resilience Budget: Who Qualifies for $9,000, and Who Decided The Criteria?!

The Self-employed Income Relief Scheme (SIRS for short) is perhaps the most generous initiatve announced by DPM Heng Swee Keat for the Resilience Budget. Its generiosity is only matched by its puzzling eligbility criteria.

Who qualifies?

  • Self-employed people who currently receive Workfare payouts annually

Additionally, people who don’t get Workfare, but meet the following requirements will qualify as well:

  • Started work as an SEP on or before 25 March 2020;
  • Do not also earn income as an employee;
  • Earn a Net Trade Income of no more than $100,000;
  • Live in a property with an annual value of no more than $13,000; and
  • Do not own two or more properties.

If you’re married, the following prerequisties also apply:

  • The individual and spouse together do not own two or more properties; and
  • The Assessable Income of his/her spouse does not exceed $70,000.

How is it paid out?

There will be 3 payments of $3,000 in May, July and October.

My thoughts

I think this is a a rather peculiar way to target help for the self-employed. Giving $9,000 to those on Workfare (who would also get an additional $3,000 cash payment from Workfare Special Payment) makes sense, but I’m not so sure why the government should give that much money to people who earn up to $100,000.

It’s a rather high income cap to be getting as much $9,000. I expect many real estate and insurance agents who aren’t doing so poorly to get the payout and I feel that this is good money that could have benefited the truly needy.

Further compounding this issue is the fact that SEP who have a job, even if part-time, would be excluded from this. If I’m a commissioned agent earning $90,000 a year, would I bother looking for a job? Probably not. But someone barely making $30,000 may indeed seek out part-time employment to supplement his income, rendering him ineligible for this payout.

Even more surprising is the fact that the government is usually very meticulous when it comes to targeting help, subsidies, and handouts. Take for instance the means testing we have for healthcare subsidies:

Perhaps unnecessarily granular, but it’s a lot fairer.

My proposed solution:

Annual IncomeAV of property < $6,000AV of property < $13,000
< $30,000$2,000$1,000
$30,000 to $50,000$1,500$750
$50,001 to $60,000$1,000$500
> $60,000$250$125

The amounts and number of months of payout can be tweaked further to make more sense, but by and large I think you get my drift.

I think it is also more logical to use a certain percentage of employment income to judge whether or not a self-employed person is truly self-employed. I personally have a self-employed friend who seems like he wouldn’t get this assistance because he works part-time to supplement his self-employment income. How does it make sense for an insurance agent earning an almost six-digit figure salary to receive this handout when someone earning sub-$30,000 doesn’t?

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