Community self-help groups have stepped up assistance programmes as the number of people seeking help grows amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda) has announced a $1.8 million package, which should benefit at least 3,000 families and students.

The package includes a one-time cash payout, a longer-term three-tranche cash payout, and enhanced student bursaries.

Sinda president Indranee Rajah, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said on Wednesday (May 13) that the new package will supplement the existing $2 million earmarked by the association for financial assistance this year.

Ms Indranee said: "The schemes in the package are designed to ease immediate financial hardship and meet specific needs on the ground.

"We want to reassure vulnerable families and individuals that they can have peace of mind, with the knowledge that the community is here for them."

The package includes a one-time $300 cash payout for about 1,600 families, as well as a three-tranche payout for about 400 families facing more challenging circumstances. They will receive payouts of between $300 and $600 depending on household size.

Applications begin this month and funds will be disbursed from late May or early June to December.

About 1,000 families known to other Indian community organisations will also be able to receive a one-time $300 cash assistance.

All three schemes are for households with per capita income of up to $1,000.

Sinda chief executive officer Anbarasu Rajendran said that in designing the package, Sinda contacted other community partners and called more than 1,500 of its beneficiaries to better understand the help needed.

The team also took into consideration the concerns from an increasing number of people inquiring about help during this period, he added.

The package also sets aside funds to enhance two of Sinda's existing programmes - its student bursaries and interim financial assistance scheme, of which the latter is given out on a case-by-case basis.

About 1,000 primary school, secondary school and tertiary students, who are current or new Sinda bursary recipients, will get an additional $50 top-up for eight months from May to December 2020.

Second-year Institute of Technical Education (ITE) student Lakshana Rajendran, 17, is a recipient of the post-secondary bursary.

Due to the Covid-19 situation, her father, the family's sole breadwinner, has been unable to find a stable job in the last five months.

Said Lakshana: "The extra money will help with my school expenses and lessen my parents' financial worries."

Yayasan Mendaki, which caters to the Malay-Muslim community, said on Wednesday that out of about 2,600 applications for its tertiary tuition fee subsidy scheme, 124 were re-applications for a higher subsidy tier due to a change in household income amid the pandemic.

Its CEO Zuraidah Abdullah said it has also received more than 800 applications for the ITE interim allowance scheme, which is for Malay or Muslim ITE students who have lost their part-time jobs or if their families had income loss because of the circuit breaker measures.

Mendaki has allocated $1.9 million to support these initiatives so far, said deputy chairman Zaqy Mohamad, who is also Minister of State for Manpower and National Development.

"We will continue to monitor the number of applications received and assess how we can better reach out to the community to ensure that those who need the assistance are receiving them," he added.

On Wednesday, the SGTeguhBersatu (Malay for SG Resilient in Unity) Taskforce, which consists of a network of Malay/Muslim community groups, announced plans to roll out videos, podcasts and an online information toolkit starting this month to encourage resilience among individuals, family and the community.

It also said in a statement that an SGTeguhBersatu Care Network will be introduced to provide emotional and spiritual support via virtual counselling for Covid-19 patients and families, and an e-forum will be held for experts to share ways to build spiritual, social and mental resilience.

The Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) had earlier announced several measures to help lower-income families during this period.

Ms Gam Huey Yi, CDAC's director of student and parent education and stakeholder communications, said on Wednesday that the council has received about 150 applications so far for its one-time assistance payout for those retrenched. Successful applicants will receive between $100 and $400 depending on household size.

CDAC has also reopened its 2020 bursary applications and received more than 300 applications.

The Eurasian Association said it has more than 140 applicants for its various education grants and more than 65 for its family support services during this period.

Courtesy: The Straits Times