MOE To Extend Assistance for Low-income Families, Preschools To Offer Offsets In Fees
Singaporean students will be offered financial assistance from various schemes, with further assistance and priority given to those from low-income families.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on Sunday (May 3), that it will continue to provide meal subsidies through School Smartcard top-ups during the extended circuit-breaker measures, as part of financial assistance for low-income families.
Despite meal subsidies not usually being extended during school holidays, in light of “the exceptional circumstances this year” the MOE has partnered up with the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STSPMF) to carry out this joint initiative to support Singaporeans who are affected by the outbreak of COVID-19, as well as the safety measures in place that restricts income avenues.
Financial assistance for low-income families: Meal subsidies
According to a press release by the MOE, this initiative is set to help over 47,000 Primary and Secondary students on the MOE Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS), MOE Independent School Bursary (ISB), and Special Education (SPED) FAS, who usually receive meal subsidies during the school term.
“Primary and Secondary students will be receiving $60 and $120 respectively via two top-ups to their School Smartcard, which they can use to purchase food and essential groceries at selected hawker centres, food courts, minimarts, convenience stores and supermarkets,” the MOE stated.
“The School Smartcard can be used for payment at 146 hawker centres and coffee shops (stalls that accept payment using this Smartcard will display the EZ-Link logo), plus certain convenience stores and supermarkets. Eligible students can approach their school for the list of merchants that accept payment via SchoolSmartcard,” MOE further notes.
The first top-up can be redeemed at TransitLink Add Value Machines from 5 May 2020, and the second top-up from 18 May 2020. Redemptions for top-ups end on 10 June.
Students on the MOE ISB and SPED FAS plans, eligible to receive this assistance will be “separately informed by their schools of the disbursement arrangements.”
Second Minister for Education Ms Indranee Rajah commented on the importance for such a joint venture as “household incomes have been affected and low-income families are feeling the impact more than most,” as business operations are limited during the circuit breaker period.
“With the school holidays coming up, we wanted to ensure that children from low-income families would continue to receive financial support for meals even though there is no school or Home-Based Learning. Hence, we reached out to the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and are delighted that they are able to partner us in this meaningful project where we will match their donations dollar for dollar to provide meal support for these children,” she further noted.
The STSPMF has pledged up to $2 million for this effort – a contribution that will be matched dollar for dollar by MOE, depending on the amount used.
NTUC First Campus to offset 100% fee offset for low-income families
Separately, NTUC First Campus recently announced the unveiling of the Bright Horizons Fund Care Package for COVID-19, by the Bright Horizons Fund (BHF) – a $500,000 initiative to provide additional support for low-income families who have had a reduction in household income or faced unemployment.
Under the programme, students enrolled at My First Skool centres, whose families have seen a reduction in household income or loss of job during the COVID-19 period, will receive a 100% fee offset off the net fees payable for a period of six months.
Students from families whose monthly gross household income is $4,500 or less, and whose parents have experienced unemployment or loss of income (for at least one month) due to COVID-19 situation, are eligible to receive the financial assistance.
The package is available for application till end 2020.
“As part of the NTUC family, our goal is to help working parents so that the children do not lose out on their educational experience even if their parents are affected by financial hardship. We understand that our low-income families are struggling to support their children’s pre-school education due to a reduction in income or loss of job during this COVID-19 period. To allay their worries and share their financial burden, we have stepped up to provide a 100% fee offset of net fees payable for six months, for these families,” CEO of NTUC First Campus Mr Chan Tee Seng noted.
A further 50 % offset of fees was also extended to all Singaporean children enrolled at the NTUC First Campus pre-school umbrella which covered My First Skool (MFS), The Little Skool-House (LSH) and The Caterpillar’s Cove (TCC), that are not attending pre-school during the extended Circuit Breaker period in May.
ECDA Childcare centres to extend 50% fee offset til June
Additionally, all childcare centres have been called on to further offer its 50 per cent fee offset on fees payable by parents after GST and pre-school subsidy, for all Singaporean children who do not attend pre-school during the extended circuit breaker period in May.
Students will have to remain enrolled in the centres in June for the offset to be applicable.
According to Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) chief executive Jamie Ang “this offset can be invoiced on or from June onwards, depending on each childcare centre’s policy.”In a letter to parents, Ms Ang noted that the fee offset may vary between childcare centres, “depending on their financial circumstances.”
“The childcare centres are not homogeneous, and Government assistance may not cover the entire cost of operations for all, depending on the cost structure and manpower mix,” Ms Ang noted.
“Childcare operators may vary how the offset sharing is provided. Some may have to pace out the 50 per cent fee offset over a few months or until the situation improves, or providing other kinds of offset such as additional classes during non-programme time, learning resources or future activities,” she further noted.
However, ECDA stated that they would continue to support parents with pre-school subsidies and that those experiencing decreased income may apply for a re-assessment in subsidies at their preschool to qualify for a higher subsidy tier.
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