Letter to all parents: Explaining ECDA's fee offset position
15 Apr 2020Dear Parents/Guardians,
Enhanced Precautionary Measures for Preschools Against COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) – Explaining the Fee Offset
1. Last week, we began a month-long Circuit Breaker. As part of the Circuit Breaker, preschools had to suspend general services. After DPM Heng’s announcement of the Solidarity Budget on Monday 6 April 2020, MSF, MOE and ECDA then called for preschools to provide parents with offsets for 50% of their nett fees, for Singaporean children who are not able to attend preschool during this period, with parents bearing the remaining 50% of fees. This is not the typical stance we take, and I would like to explain why we did so.
Necessary but painful public health measure
2. The Circuit Breaker is a very important public health measure to safeguard people in Singapore during this pandemic. However, it will significantly impact everyone – operators and families alike. During this challenging period, everyone has to make some necessary adjustments, shoulder part of the impact, and support each other.
Shouldering the impact together
3. In response to the mass closure of preschools, there were two options at the extreme ends: (a) no fee offset (i.e. parents bear the entire month’s fees and the full impact of the Circuit Breaker), or (b) 100% fee offset (i.e. operators bear the full impact of the closure). Either option would lead to hardship falling entirely on one party. This was not tenable. Instead, we decided that all three parties: the Government, preschools, and families – should bear part of the burden of this public health measure.
4. To support businesses, the Government announced a series of measures1 to help with cost, cashflow and credit. For preschools specifically, ECDA had earlier announced that we would waive requirements normally required for provision of preschool subsidies (e.g. minimum attendance), to ensure that full subsidies continue to flow to operators and families in April 2020.
5. Given the various forms of government assistance, we then called for preschools to provide parents with 50% nett fee offset for affected Singaporean children, while parents bear the remaining 50% of fees. In ordinary circumstances, we would not have called for fee offsets by preschools. However, these are exceptional times where all are facing major challenges and we need to share the burden collectively. Hence, we decided to take the general position that 50:50 is the fairer way to share the burden, with Government providing significant support to both operators and families.
Varying how the fee offset is provided
6. We recognise that the 1,900 preschool centres are not homogenous, and government assistance may not cover the entire cost of operations for all. As such, while we have called for a 50% fee offset by preschools, we seek parents’ understanding that preschools may have to vary exactly how they can provide the offset, depending on their circumstances. Some may have to pace out the 50% fee offset over a few months or until things get better, or provide some offset in kind, such as providing classes during holiday time, learning materials/resources, or credits for future activities. Where preschools have parents who are less impacted by the COVID-19 situation and are prepared to forego all or some of the offset to support the preschool and teachers, preschools may seek to work out a mutually acceptable arrangement with them. I hope you will give your understanding and support to your child’s preschool.
7. The fee offset for parents will complement the additional help from the Government under the Solidarity Budget announced for families. These include:
a. Cash payouts. All adult Singaporeans2 will receive a one-off Solidarity Payment of $600 in cash in April 2020, with some eligible for further cash payment of $300 or $600. Each Singaporean parent will also receive an additional $300.
b. Further support for households, such as Grocery Vouchers, GST Voucher – U-Save, and Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) Rebate.
c. Support for workers who may need more help3.
d. Those who need additional support may also apply for the Temporary Relief Fund, the upcoming COVID-19 Support Grant, as well as existing ComCare schemes.
8. The Solidarity Budget will cost $5.1 billion more, on top of the $54.8 billion COVID-19-related measures already committed in the Resilience and Unity Budgets.
9. We recognise that the COVID-19 situation is presenting great changes and challenges for everyone. But if we can rally together, we believe everyone in the preschool community – children, parents, teachers and operators – will emerge stronger, when this severe thunderstorm is over.
Early Childhood Development Agency
Click here for updates on COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019).
1These include: (a) Providing Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) subsidy of 75% of wages of all Singaporean/PR workers for April 2020, on top of JSS subsidy of 25% of wages for another 8 months; (b) Waiving Foreign Worker Levy (FWL) and providing FWL rebates; (c) Granting rental waivers in government-owned properties; and (d) Providing Property Tax rebates (the Government has passed new legislation to ensure that landlords pass on these rebates to tenants).
2 Adult PRs with Singaporean parents, spouses or children may also apply for a one-off Solidarity Payment of $300 in cash. This payment will also be extended to long-term pass holders who are spouses of Singaporeans.
3 These include: (a) Enhanced Workfare Special Payment; (b) Measures to help workers in sectors most impacted; (c) Support for low- to middle-income union members; and (d) Income relief for self-employed Singaporeans with less means.