Klang MP proposes rental relief fund as part of Covid-19 Bill

DAP's Klang MP Charles Santiago suggested that the retail relief fund be included in the Covid-19 Bill 2020 which was tabled last week in Parliament. — Picture by Hari Anggara
DAP's Klang MP Charles Santiago suggested that the retail relief fund be included in the Covid-19 Bill 2020 which was tabled last week in Parliament. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 11 — An Opposition MP has urged the government to set up a rental relief fund to address office, residential and restaurant evictions in light of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

DAP's Klang MP Charles Santiago suggested that the fund be included in the Covid-19 Bill 2020 which was tabled last week in Parliament.

While acknowledging government intervention in the form of relief aid, he said, the aid was insufficient.

Citing aid from the Housing and Local Government Ministry, public housing projects and projects saw six months rental waived, he added, but tenants who rent private premises did not receive such assistance.

“Throughout the Covid-19 period, I was informed about a family who lost their home because they could not pay rent.

“The family of four, a husband and his pregnant wife and two children, lived in their car parked at the parking lot for 10 days outside Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital here in my constituency.

“This is just one case that I came across. I'm sure you know of many others out there,” he told reporters during a press conference in the Parliament building today.  

He also cited a popular eatery in Klang whose owner has to fork out RM12,000 a month in expenses. But since the movement control order (MCO) was enforced, the eatery owner has had to cut back on the number of tables allowed in the restaurant. As a result, the number of patrons has also decreased by 30 per cent.

Charles said the eatery owner is wary about the future of his restaurant, fearing that he will not be able to sustain the business.

“So that's why the government has to look at alternative solutions. The New Zealand government imposed a freeze on residential rent increases and protected tenants from having their tenancies terminated.

“For small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well, this is a big concern as it could render workers jobless, making it impossible for them to pay rent,” he added.

According to Charles, the SMEs incurred an estimated RM14.31 billion in losses in operating costs during the six weeks of the MCO.

“Even the SME Association of Malaysia reported that about 30 per cent of SMEs are going to cease business operations in the next one year.

“While the government did provide rent exemptions and tax deductions, private premises did not receive these benefits,” he said.

As a remedy for those affected, Charles suggested that the government emulate the US state of Virginia where the US government launched the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Programme (RMRP) which will provide US$50 million (RM209.9 million) in federal CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) funding for households in the form of rent and mortgage payments.

Over in Singapore, the government has offered a rental relief programme involving a two-month waiver of rentals for all SMEs and non-profit organisations, including another two months on appeal.

In line with the recent Covid-19 Bill tabled in the Parliament, Charles suggested that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin include in the Bill a rental relief fund that could help assist those affected.

The rental relief fund should include measures such as suspension of evictions, rent freeze, extension of the moratorium on financial loans, waive off rental fees for the poor and special grants for SMEs that are experiencing revenue drop by subsidising 70 per cent of their rental fees and capped at RM8,500 until March 2021.

Last week, the Malaysian government proposed a law to enable emergency and stimulus spending related to the Covid-19 pandemic and to raise the country's legal debt limit.

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