Guide to SME Grants and COVID-19 Measures to Support Businesses in Singapore

Ching Sue Mae

Ching Sue Mae

Last updated 19 January, 2021

As we adopt a phased re-opening approach, businesses are going to need all the help they can get. Here are all the COVID-19 measures and Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) grants available for businesses.

COVID-19 has been one of the biggest, if not the biggest cause behind rising unemployment and decline in consumer spending. It has resulted in a vicious loop: with job losses, people are cutting back on spending, which in turn has caused cessation of businesses and an impending recession. And of course, that leads to further unemployment.

On both the consumer and business fronts, the government has introduced a host of measures to help Singaporeans tide through these challenging times.

Support measures available to help businesses tide through COVID-19

Companies have borne the brunt of lockdowns all over the world. In Singapore, we saw 8,500 business entities closing in April. Much like supporting its citizens, the Singapore government has also introduced support measures to help businesses during these difficult times.

On 26 May 2020, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat introduced additional support measures being provided through the $33 billion Fortitude Budget, targeted at helping SMEs as we ease out of the Circuit Breaker and into Phase 1. The fourth budget this year, the government is pulling out all the stops to help businesses survive COVID-19.

Together with the earlier Unity, Resilience and Solidarity Budgets, the government is dedicating close to $100 billion in total.

Here are the COVID-19 support measures available for businesses.

Support MeasureDetails 
Corporate Income Tax rebateCorporate Income Tax Rebate for the year 2020 has been increased to 25%, capped at $15,000 per company.
Corporate Income Tax defermentAll companies with corporate income tax payments due in April, May and June 2020 will be granted an automatic 3 month deferment. These payments will be deferred to July, August and September 2020.
Property tax rebate Non-residential properties will be granted property tax rebate for 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2020. 100% rebate: Commercial properties badly affected by COVID-19 (e.g. hotels, serviced apartments, tourist attractions, shops and restaurants) 30% rebate: Other non-residential properties (e.g. offices and industrial properties)Rebate notices will be sent to property owners by 31 May 2020.
Jobs Support Scheme Government will co-fund between 25% to 75% of the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages paid to each local employee through cash subsidies for 10 months. The level of support each employer receives depends on the sector in which the employer operates.

During the circuit breaker period, wage support for April and May 2020 will be topped-up to 75% for all firms, regardless of sector.

Businesses that cannot resume operations immediately after the Circuit Breaker period will continue to receive a 75% wage subsidy until August, or when they are allowed to reopen, whichever is earlier (e.g. gyms, fitness studios, cinemas, retail outlets).

The JSS has also been extended to cover the wages of employees who are shareholders and directors of the company with Assessable Income of $100,000 or less for Year of Assessment 2019.
Foreign Worker Levy Waiver and RebateFor the month of April and May 2020, foreign worker levy will be waived. Rebates of S$750 per worker will also be given to eligible employers who have paid at least one month of levy due in 2020.

Businesses that are not allowed to resume operations on-site immediately after the circuit breaker ends will have the foreign worker levy waived for up to two more months.
Government fees and chargesThere will be no increases in government fees and charges from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. Examples of fees include business licence fees, business permits, company registration fees and more. 
Enhanced Financial Support  
The government has introduced and enhanced various financing schemes as part of the Supplementary Budget 2020 for additional financial support: SG Together Enhancing Enterprise Resilience (STEER) Programme Enterprise Financing Scheme - Trade Loan Enterprise Financing Scheme - SME Working Capital Loan Temporary Bridging Loan Programme
COVID-19 Support package for FintechsThis S$125 million support package was introduced to help the financial and FinTech sectors deal with the challenges from COVID-19. This support package includes:Training Allowance GrantJobs Support SchemeSalary Subsidy for Poly Grad HiresDigital Acceleration Grant (For FinTechs) 90% Course Fee SubsidyDiscounts on Rental CostAPIX CaresFinTech Self-Assessment ToolDigital Acceleration Grant (For Financial Institutions)
Specialised Cleaning ProgrammeFrom 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020, SMEs that have experienced a confirmed COVID-19 case on their premises will receive 50% of eligible third-party professional cleaning and disinfection costs, capped at $3,000 per company. This helps to defray part of the disinfection costs incurred. 
Wage Credit SchemeGovernment co-funding for wage increases in 2019 and 2020 will be raised to 20% and 15% respectively (up from 15% and 10% previously). The qualifying gross wage ceiling will also be raised to $5,000 for both years. 
Rental Relief For SMEsTo help SMEs with rental costs, additional rental relief will be provided through a cash grant to property owners. Including the property tax rebate, this additional support will offset about two months of rental for qualifying SME tenants of commercial properties, and about one month for qualifying SME tenants of industrial and office properties.
Digital Resilience BonusF&B and retail businesses can get up to $10,000 each in payouts for adopting business solutions. This will help to offset the cost of adoption. For example, this could include adopting PayNow Corporate and e-invoicing, inventory management and digital ordering.
Jobs Growth IncentiveA $1 billion programme encouraging businesses to hire Singaporeans. For 12 months, the Government will subsidise up to 25% of wages for each new local hire below 40 years old. For hires aged 40 and above, the subsidy increases to 50%.
SGUnited Traineeships ProgrammeA programme for fresh graduates who completed their degree or diploma programmes in 2019 and 2020. Businesses can hire them as trainees for up to 9 months. They gain access to a fresh pool of talent while receiving Government funding subsidies of 80% for their allowances.
Career TrialDevised by WSG and NTUC's e2i, Career Trial allows employers to determine a jobseeker's fit via a short-term trial of up to 6 months. Monthly salary support of up to 30% per Singaporean hire will be provided. These new hires must have been actively searching for employment for 6 months or more.
Enhanced rental waiversA two-month rental waiver for industrial, office, and agricultural tenants in government properties, up from 0.5 months.
Enhanced Loan Insurance Scheme (LIS)Businesses can secure short-term trade financing loans from financial institutions through the LIS. Support for the LIS insurance premium has increased to 80% until 31 March 2021. This financing can be for a Banker's Guarantee, structured pre-delivery working capital, and other purposes.
Marine and Process Support PackageA sectoral package for the Marine and Process industries comprising of two components that helps them adapt to new work practices and minimise the risk of COVID-19 exposure. These include the Marine and Process Safe Restart Package and Productive Safe Restart Scheme (PSRS).

Here's a handy infographic from MOF:

The adoption of digital solutions has been accelerated by the arrival of COVID-19. Like what Minister Heng said, "those who are willing to transform will not be left behind". Help the government help you, by taking the first step to go digital.

Here are more details on support measures available for businesses to cope with COVID-19.

Grants available for SMEs in Singapore

The Singapore government is committed to helping SMEs grow in Singapore. Grants have been made available for SMEs to apply for. Here are the grants SMEs can tap on.

Name of grantGrant amountWho is it for
Enterprise Development GrantUp to 80% of qualifying project costs.For companies with projects that upgrade the business, innovate or venture overseas. These projects also have to fall under these 3 pillars:Core Capabilities Innovation and Productivity Market Access
International Co-Innovation ProgrammesSupports projects that catalyse cross-border collaboration on technology development and co-innovation. Companies looking at internationalisation and cross-border collaboration.
Land Productivity Grant (LPG)Up to 70% of the qualifying costs, such as relocation cost, third-party consultancy fees and manpower costs.

For companies looking to optimise land use through domestic or overseas relocation.
Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) GrantUp to 70% of eligible costs, capped at S$100,000 per company per new market.For companies looking to expand overseas. 
Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG)Funding support of up to 80% on qualifying costs.For companies that are looking to adopt IT solutions and equipment to enhance business processes. This could include solutions that help the company implement COVID-19 business continuity measures.
SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit (SFEC)S$10,000 credit to cover up to 90% of out-of-pocket expenses on qualifying costs. Companies looking to transform their enterprise and develop the capabilities of their employees.

Here are more details on the grants available for SMEs in Singapore.

Enterprise Development Grant

The Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) supports projects that help companies upgrade their business, innovate or venture overseas. The EDG specifies 3 core areas that your project can fall under, namely:

  1. Core Capabilities
  2. Innovation and Productivity
  3. Market Access

Grant amount: Up to 80% of qualifying project costs, namely third party consultancy fees, software and equipment, and internal manpower cost. This can go up to 90% for companies that are severely impacted by COVID-19.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Be registered and operating in Singapore
  • Have a minimum of 30% local shareholding
  • Be in a financially viable position to start and complete the project

International Co-Innovation Programmes

With globalisation, the economies and businesses in the world today have become intertwined. International Co-Innovation Programmes aims to help companies with their growth and  internationalisation, by supporting projects that catalyse cross-border collaboration on technology development and co-innovation. The grant amount and eligibility criteria differs based on the programme.

More specifically, Singapore has programmes with:

Each of these programmes call out to companies that are keen to embark on joint innovation projects with companies in the respective countries.

Land Productivity Grant (LPG)

The LPG is for companies that are looking to optimise land use through either domestic or overseas relocation. The LPG helps to defray part of the costs that arise from the relocation, such as relocation cost, third-party consultancy fees and manpower costs.

Grant amount: Ranges from 10% to up to 70% of the qualifying costs.This grant amount is also dependent on the amount of land freed up and the remaining lease term.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Company has to be physically present and registered in Singapore
  • Company has to be currently situated on industrial land
  • For overseas relocation, company must demonstrate strong linkages from the relocated activities to the activities carried out in Singapore
  • Company must generate a minimum of 0.1 hectare (ha) of land savings

Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) Grant

The MRA grant is for companies that are looking to bring their business overseas, providing the support required for market promotion, business development and market set-up.

Grant amount: Up to 70% of eligible costs, capped at S$100,000 per company per new market. This S$100,000 cap is also specifically broken down into 3 components:

  • Overseas market promotion (capped at S$20,000)
  • Overseas business development (capped at S$50,000)
  • Overseas market set-up (capped at S$30,000)

Eligibility criteria:

  • Business entity is registered/incorporated in Singapore
  • New market entry criteria, i.e. target overseas country whereby the applicant has not exceeded S$100,000 in overseas sales in each of the last three preceding years
  • At least 30% local shareholding
  • Group Annual Sales Turnover of not more than S$100 million; OR Company's Group Employment Size of not more than 200 employees

Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG)

The PSG supports companies that are keen on adopting IT solutions and equipment to enhance business processes. It has also been expanded to include solutions adopted to implement COVID-19 business continuity measures. These solutions have to be pre-scoped by various government agencies.

Grant amount: Previously at 70%, the funding support level has been increased to 80% from 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Registered and operating in Singapore
  • Purchase/lease/subscription of the IT solutions or equipment must be used in Singapore
  • Have a minimum of 30% local shareholding (for selected solutions only)

SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit (SFEC)

The SFEC encourages companies to transform their enterprise and workforce by providing S$10,000 credit. This credit can be used for SFEC-supportable programmes that cover enterprise transformation or workforce transformation.

Grant amount: A one-off S$10,000 credit to help cover up to 90% of out-of-pocket expenses on qualifying costs. The SFEC specifies that S$3,000 of the credit should be used for workforce transformation programmes, with up to S$7,000 for enterprise transformation.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Have contributed at least S$750 Skills Development Levy over the period
  • Have employed at least three Singapore Citizens (SCs) or Permanent Residents (PRs) every month over the same period
  • Have not been qualified at any of the earlier periods

With some of the relief measures ending in May 2020, businesses could find it difficult to keep their heads above water without government support. Besides the COVID-19 measures and SME grants, there are also other ways companies can access capital should things go south. This could be through an SME business loan, or even a personal loan with low interest rates.

Read these next:
Best SME Business Loans in Singapore 2020
7 Sources Of Capital For Business Owners In Singapore
A Guide To Business Insurance For SMEs (And How Much They Cost)
11 Ways To Prepare Yourself For A Recession During COVID-19
5 Ways to Cope With Financial Setbacks Hitting Singaporeans Hard Amid COVID-19

A flat white, an adventure-filled travel and a good workout is her fuel. Sue Mae enjoys sharing knowledge on personal finance while chasing the dream of financial independence.


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