BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Financial aid will be provided for three months to local private sector employees who have been terminated or furloughed due to COVID-19, the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) announced on Saturday.
Three groups of people would be able to apply for COVID-19 financial relief on the National Welfare System (SKN) website — retrenched employees, workers who are on unpaid leave for over seven days or issued a quarantine order, as well as self-employed individuals or freelancers.
Single employees who are eligible for the aid will be offered $250 a month, while workers who are married will receive $250 a month and an additional $50 for each dependent, including their spouse and up to four children aged below 18.
However, those who are already receiving student and welfare allowances from other government agencies will not be allowed to apply for more financial support.
The new monetary assistance scheme is part of the government’s additional measures to assist struggling individuals and businesses stay afloat amid extended coronavirus restrictions.
Earlier when the second COVID-19 wave began in August, MoFE had revised fiscal measures to help businesses ride out the coronavirus-induced slowdown in economic activities, including the provision of wage subsidy and social security contributions.
Spelling out the eligibility criteria of the new financial measures, the second minister of finance and economy said assistance will only be rendered to those who lost their jobs or income as a result of COVID-19’s economic impact.
Employees who quit or were sacked for disciplinary reasons do not qualify for the relief scheme, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said in a press briefing.
“This special financial aid is to ensure the well-being of Brunei citizens and permanent residents, especially those who have been affected by the pandemic and earn a monthly salary of $1,500.00 and below in the private sector.
“It is also aimed at improving businesses’ cash flow to overcome the impact of COVID-19,” he said, adding that the assistance scheme does not apply to civil servants and employees of government-linked companies.
Applicants must upload a declaration letter from the employer on the SKN website, stating the date and reason of retrenchment.
They must also actively contribute five percent of their monthly wages to the Employees Trust Fund (TAP) until at least July 2021.
For employees who were forced to take unpaid leave or issued a quarantine order, they should submit a letter from their employer ensuring that they can return to work once the situation allows, or upload a screenshot of their quarantine order from the BruHealth app.
A 30 percent wage subsidy of up to three months is also available for employers that granted a leave of absence to their workers for more than a week.
Urging employers not to terminate their local workers during the pandemic, the minister also warned businesses against exploiting the government’s COVID-19 relief measures.
Meanwhile, self-employed individuals or freelancers were advised to apply for monthly welfare assistance through SKN.
YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said his ministry will work with MCYS to expedite the processing of applications.
The public will be notified the status of their applications via SMS.
Enquiries on applications for the financial assistance can be directed to the TAP call center at 2382800 or 2382929, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The public can also contact the Treasury Department at 8191000 for payment queries.