$30 vouchers to help needy cope with fares

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SINGAPORE - More public transport vouchers in bigger amounts will be given out to needy families, who will also have greater flexibility in applying for them.

Some S$7.5 million from the Public Transport Fund has been set aside for 250,000 vouchers of S$30 each, to help the poor cope with the public transport fare changes announced yesterday.

Eligible families can also apply for vouchers multiple times, as they can be distributed throughout the year while they last.

Previously, vouchers were restricted to one per household, and the application window was limited to a short period around the fare increase.

The Public Transport Fund, set up by the Government in 2007, currently stands at S$12.2 million.

It will get an S$11.5 million boost this year, with one-time contributions from operators SMRT and SBS Transit.

It is hoped the greater flexibility will help lift the take-up rate of the vouchers. Just over half of the 200,000 available in the previous exercise in 2011 were taken up, even after the Government made two public announcements for applications.

MPs and help agencies said the lukewarm response could have been due to the small amount offered of S$20 for each voucher, and the hassle in applying for them. Families have to go to community centres or clubs to apply.

Vouchers were worth S$30 to S$40 each in previous exercises in 2007 and 2008.

MP for Sembawang GRC Ellen Lee welcomed the relaxed rules, saying: "With multiple vouchers available, more people will be willing to go through the administrative process in applying.

"The open application window also gives more time for people to learn about the vouchers and apply."

Vouchers can be used to buy or top up ez-link cards or monthly concession passes. Eligible families can apply from March 3 at community centres and clubs, or ask grassroots leaders for help.

The People's Association will work with the Citizens' Consultative Committees to help distribute the vouchers from early April.


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