Revised Jobs Support Scheme: More in sports fraternity benefit, but...
Sports business fraternity welcomes the revised criteria, though some say there are issues
Changes to the Government's Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) last month have been met with mixed reactions by the sports business fraternity.
The JSS is one of a series of measures aimed at assisting workers during the Covid-19 crisis.
Initially, those who are both directors and employees of their own companies were not covered by this scheme. They also did not qualify for the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme.
But, on April 21, the Ministry of Finance announced that the Government would extend the JSS to offer wage support for "employees in a company who are also shareholders and directors... with assessable income of $100,000 or less for Year of Assessment 2019".
Newly eligible Singaporeans and permanent residents will also receive back-payment for the first JSS payout last month.
There are about 50,000 of them, revealed Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in Parliament on Monday.
Under the revised scheme, a swim school owner who doubles up as a coach is now eligible for a 75 per cent wage subsidy for April and May and 25 per cent for subsequent months, for the first $4,600 of their gross monthly wage.
Jacqueline Chan, director of Odysseus Aquatics swim school, is one such beneficiary.
The 34-year-old, who has one full-time employee and 15 freelancers, told The New Paper: "Of course, I'm very happy.
"With my one full-time staff, I was able to pay him because he was eligible for JSS... but for my freelancers, who are out of a job, I wanted to give them something to help tide them through.
"But, without anything from my own end, I couldn't help them at all. Now with the JSS, I'm able to provide them with some ad hoc opportunities (like paperwork or engaging students via Zoom)...
"I don't have to cut (off) my own flesh to feed my people now. Everyone can breathe better, it's not so stressful."
Things are more stressful for Tan Weide, owner of Torpedo Swim School, who says his 10 full-time employees have been put on no-pay leave as he is unable to hold lessons but still has to pay rental fees. He also employs 38 part-time workers.
He said he was not eligible for the JSS because his income for last year exceeded the $100,000 limit. He is appealing to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.
Tan, 38, believes that threshold should be removed and the JSS should be applied uniformly to directors and employees based on the first $4,600 of their gross monthly salary.
He said: "Just because our working titles are different, working directors are supposed to be more well-off and incomparable to a normal employee.
"Working directors with an annual income of more than $100,000 contribute the same amount to CPF (Central Provident Fund) and income tax as employees...
"Is this the time to qualify or quantify previous earnings to current situations?"
DPM Heng addressed the issue of the yearly income cap, saying: "By setting an assessable income criteria of $100,000, we can better target the JSS support at shareholder/directors who need the support more."
Elvin Ting, managing director of events management company Orange Room and swim school The Swimming Room, suggested there are also issues for directors who qualify for the JSS.
The 40-year-old has 17 permanent employees in Singapore and eight overseas, as well as 200-300 contract workers.
Ting said that while being eligible for JSS helps, it does not offer him much financial relief because of how his salary is structured.
He said: "It helps, but not completely... There are no events... so there is no revenue.
"Most founders of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), in order to build a proper cash-flow system, will pay themselves below market value because they invest in growing the business, not in themselves...
"Our pay is structured as part-minimum salary but more in bonuses... But JSS covers only the minimum salary, which is way below (what I would get) because there is definitely no bonus because there are no deliverables...
"So JSS is not really helping companies like us."
Eugene Lee, however, adopts the mantra of trying not to rely on the Government.
The director of World Coaches Academy, which trains triathletes and runs seminars for coaches, says he has lost around 70 per cent of his revenue. But his decision to go digital a few years ago means he can continue to train athletes, even if he is no longer able to run seminars or train coaches.
Said the 42-year-old: "I wouldn't say I'm not worried, it's affected all of us... I did qualify for JSS but I would not be terribly upset if I didn't qualify for it.
"For my coaching, three or four years back, I started utilising technology as a pre-emptive measure... I transferred half my work online... and that's keeping me afloat during this period...
"I'm connected with coaches in the industry and I'm helping them on a pro bono basis on how to transfer some of their business online...
"A lot of sports businesses and coaches, in particular, are not ready for the transition, because when June comes, it's not going to be business as usual."