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Coronavirus (COVID-19) getting financial help in Singapore
Here’s how you can get financial help during the coronavirus pandemic.
The COVID-19 crisis is having a big impact across the country as job uncertainty increases in Singapore. Fortunately, our government has announced that a $48 billion supplementary resilience budget 2020 would be put in place to support the economy. Many organisations are also stepping up to help Singaporeans get through the crisis with extra payouts.
So if you’ve lost your job or you’re worried about your finances, it can help to know that there are financial assistance which you may qualify for.
This page is a guide to finding help and financial relief during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. To help keep our community informed and up-to-date, we’ll continue to publish relevant content as events unfold.
On 31 March 2020, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) offered loan relief to ease financial pressure amid the COVID-19 situation in Singapore. These are the 3 key facilities:
Defer repayment of residential property loans
Individuals can apply to their banks to defer either principal payment or both principal and interest payment of residential property loans for 9 months (until Dec 31) without the need to prove that they are affected by the COVID-19 fallout to obtain approval. During the period of deferment, interest will still continue to accrue on the deferred principal amount, but no interest will be charged on the deferred interest payments. This means that there’ll be no snowballing of debt from interest-on-interest.
Lower interest on personal unsecured credit
Borrowers with unsecured loans, which includes outstanding amounts on their credit card, can also apply to their lenders to convert their credit balances into term loans at a reduced interest rate, capped at 8% p.a. and a maximum tenure of up to 5 years. Compared to the average 26% p.a. interest rate charged for outstanding credit card balances, the 8% p.a. rate is significantly lower. However, this option is only available to Singaporeans and PRs who suffered at least a quarter of losses in monthly income after 1 February 2020.
Defer payment of principal on secured SME term loans
The banks will also offer small and medium-sized businesses impacted by the outbreak a deferral of principal payments on secured term loans until the end of the year. Approvals will be granted as long as the applicant is not in arrears for over 90 days as at 6 April 2020.
Deferring payments increases future obligations, so it is not without costs. Before making a decision, make sure to weigh your options and only apply for a deferral if you really need to. We also recommend getting in touch with your bank to get the best information to suit your personal situation. For more information, please view the MAS and Financial Industry Support Measures.
Dealing with credit card debt
If you’re worried about paying off your credit cards in these uncertain times, you could move your debt to a balance transfer facility. Balance transfers typically charge 0% interest for an introductory period that can last up to 12 months. By paying no interest, you could save and pay off your debt faster.
If you have more than one debt, you can also move multiple debts under one new account with a balance transfer. At the end of the 0% promotional period, any remaining balance will start attracting interest. So it’s wise to pay off your debt before interest applies to get the most value out of a balance transfer.
Some balance transfer credit cards charge annual fees and balance transfer fees (which are usually around 1%-5% of your transfer amount). You should also check that you have a good credit score and meet the card’s eligibility criteria before you apply.
Consolidating your debt to ease your finances
During COVID-19 your budget may be stretched, and this can make it difficult if you have a debt to repay. If you have unsecured debt that you’re looking to consolidate, you have a few options available to you. One option is an unsecured personal loan. This is an option to consider if you have multiple lines of credit that you want to combine to reduce what you’re paying in interest and fees. It can also make your repayments more manageable.
Unsecured personal loans can be used to consolidate personal loans, lines of credit and even credit cards. To make sure this is the right option for you, calculate what you’re paying across all of your debts each month and then check what you’d pay if you consolidated your debt into a new debt consolidation personal loan. If the new amount is lower, it might be an option you want to consider.
Something else to keep in mind before applying for an unsecured personal loan to consolidate debt is your credit score. Whenever you apply for something like a personal loan it’s recorded on your credit report and affects your score. Only apply for a loan once you’ve decided on the right loan for you and don’t make too many applications in a short space of time.
As part of a package of measures rolled out by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), life insurers in Singapore including Great Eastern and Prudential are offering a 6-month grace period on insurance premium payments while maintaining insurance coverage. This benefit is meant for Singapore policyholders who are facing financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus situation. To be eligible, your premium due date or policy renewal date must fall between 1 April and 30 Sept 2020. Do take note that applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Many of Singapore’s insurers have financial hardship options. They are always in operation and would apply if you needed to temporarily stop payments. Some of your options include:
- Premium holiday. You may request a temporary stoppage of premium payments if your policy has accumulated cash value.
- Policy loan. Leverage on the cash value of your insurance policy by taking a loan from it once it has reached maturity.
- Partial withdrawal. Tap on to the cash value of your policy by taking out part of the accumulated cash value or the death benefit related to the policy. This option is considered a partial surrender of the net cash value of the policy and is irreversible, so make sure to consider very carefully before making your decision.
- Retrenchment benefit. Newer policies may come with benefits to help policyholders tide through financial hardship and cope with premium payment or other expenses in the case of retrenchment.
To choose the most suitable solution for your financial situation, make sure to contact your insurer directly and discuss your options.
Responding to the government’s call for big businesses to help during this crisis, KEPPEL Corporation has announced that it’ll provide approximately $3.5 million in utility rebates to Singapore residents living in one and two-room HDB flats starting 1 May 2020. These rebates will be given through Keppel Electric, M1 and City Gas and are expected to benefit more than 40,000 households. The conglomerate will also accelerate payments to all its small and medium enterprise (SME) suppliers within one week of invoices being approved.
Internet and mobile providers
Due to the increase in people working from home, a handful of Internet providers have announced support initiatives to help their customers and the public.
Singapore’s largest telco has put together a care package of free services to support the public:
- All Singapore residents can enjoy three months of free access to selected television channels, which include its Cast streaming app and channels such as Asian Food Network, Cartoon Network, Discovery and Nickelodeon.
- Existing Singtel TV customers are entitled to free access across 30 channels such as AXN, CNBC, Discovery Asia and KBS World.
- Singtel network users can enjoy data-free messaging on WhatsApp.
- SMEs that have implemented work-from-home plans or split-team arrangements take advantage of six-months free usage of productivity, collaboration and security tools.
- SMEs that want to set up online shops can do so for free on Singtel’s 99sme.sg e-marketplace.
To extend support to its customers during this period, Starhub is offering the following support initiatives:
- Free preview of a selection of 10 news, kids and entertainment channels on StarHub Go OTT video streaming app (available for all StarHub customers till noon of 24 April, the free preview will include Hub E City, BBC World News, Boomerang, Cartoon Network and Oh!K.)
- StarHub Mobile postpaid customers can enjoy data-free streaming.
- Businesses can enjoy free SmartUC Mobile softphone subscriptions.
- More than 70% off unlimited Business Wireless Broadband for remote workplace 4G connectivity.
- Free one-month subscription to Smart Engagement for companies, which provides multi-channel crisis communications tools.
Whilst the Internet and mobile providers in Singapore have yet to release any specific financial hardship policies in relation to COVID-19, many of them may help offer tailored solutions if you’re financially impacted both directly or indirectly by COVID-19. Get in touch with your provider to discuss flexible options that may be available, such as arranging payment plans, payment extensions and possibly waiving late payment or collection fees.
COVID-19 stimulus packages
In order to soften the blow of the coronavirus crisis on the economy, the Singapore government is announcing stimulus packages regularly. Each benefit is subjected to different terms and conditions, eligibility criteria and supporting documents.
Free financial tools
If you are facing extreme financial stress in Singapore, you may be able to access financial counselling services. Financial counsellors are qualified professionals who provide information, advice and advocacy to people in financial difficulty.
Credit Counselling Singapore (CCS) is another free tool available to those seeking help for serious debt problems. Call 6225 5227 to speak to trained financial counsellors who can offer guidance on your situation.
There is a wide range of apps and websites that exist to help you track your spending and see where you can cut down and create budgets you can stick to.
Take care of your mental health
There is a lot of stress and anxiety in the world right now and that can be made worse if you’re struggling financially. It’s important to know where to get help if you’re finding it hard to cope.
On5 April 202, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee announced in a Facebook post that the government will set up a new National Care helpline to provide emotional support to anyone facing stress or anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re stressing out over issues such as finances, marital and family tensions, feel free to call the hotline when it’s available.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, try reaching out to Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) on 1800 283 7019. You can speak with trained mental health professionals over the phone. Its website also contains excellent information and tools for maintaining good mental health. However, do note that the hotline is only available from Monday to Friday, between 9 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 6 pm.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or severe emotional distress, call Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) on 1800 221 4444. They are a 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention network.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 999 to get help from the police as soon as possible.
Other quick ways to save money
Are you worried about your finances during this time? Don’t forget to review your bills – spending a little time on admin, could save you over the weeks and months to come.
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