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Some Singapore retailers to offer cash allowances to staff, loans to businesses amid virus outbreak

A GROUP of retailers is extending cash allowances to workers, and interest-free loans to fellow businesses in a bid to lend support amid the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak.

The allowance involves a monthly cash payout of S$30 from February to April, that will go to each worker earning S$2,000, or less than this, and whose companies have pledged to the cause. 

The group comprises Yankee Candle distributor Pure Senses, F&B chain Wok Hey, beauty chain Pink Parlour, Bove by Spring Maternity and bag retailer Bagzx, according to a statement on Wednesday. 

Also, the group will match the cost of the allowance one to one for companies that are keen to pledge, but unable to fork out the entire amount.

They were unable to say exactly how much each company would contribute yet, but estimated that each would be giving the allowance to more than 100 people monthly. Pure Senses and Wok Hey said they have collectively put aside S$7,425 to support the cause.  

In addition, Pure Senses is stumping up S$50,000 to offer interest-free loans to businesses. Each loan will be up to S$10,000 and the borrower only needs to start paying back from May. 

However, the companies need to have minimum paid-up capital of S$20,000 and be locally incorporated with at least 30 per cent Singaporean shareholding to qualify. 

“I would love to say that the purpose of this loan is to provide immediate short-term liquidity to meet payroll obligations before we receive the credits and rebates from Budget 2020, and before we receive the publicised rent rebates from landlords, if we do receive it,” said Logan Wong, founder of Pure Senses, who hopes other companies will follow suit.

However, the group's generosity does not mean that they are not unaffected by the virus outbreak, Mr Wong added. "It simply means that we are lucky enough to have a sum of money to tide us through this. I think this point is very easily lost."

This comes as some Singapore firms have offered funds to fellow businesses in recent weeks, including six companies under the Singapore Business Federation's young business leaders network that pooled S$5 million in funds. 

Singaporean tycoon John Lim's family office, ARA Asset Management and The Straits Trading Company also set up a fund in February to extend short-term loans to businesses. That kitty has now grown to S$8 million.