KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 14 —  Middle-income earners, otherwise known as the M40 group, are not spared by the Covid-19 pandemic and many have actually slipped into the lower 40 per cent of the country’s income group.

The plight deepens for those who share the duty of caring for the young and elderly in extended households.

With such concerns, a closer look at Budget 2022 provides a perspective on how affected M40s can ease their financial commitments as more assistance will be channelled to seniors and youths.

For clarity on how Budget 2022 can actually alleviate the burden of the M40 income group, here are some of the highlights on what assistance can be obtained. 

Education aid

If you have to repay your National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loan, there will be loan discounts available from now until April 2022.  

A 15 per cent discount is granted for full loan settlements and 12 per cent for paying at least half of the outstanding balance in a single payment. 

Those who pay via salary deductions or scheduled payments will get a 10 per cent discount.

The Public Services Department (PSD) will continue to provide scholarships to graduating Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia students with an allocation of RM939 million. 

The scholarship is one of the most sought after for further education in local and international universities. 

A total RM6.6 billion will also be allocated to Bumiputera institutions, including those under MARA, UiTM, and Yayasan Peneraju for educational loans, upgrading programmes from certificate to diploma, and to produce professionals among Bumiputera in the medical, engineering and financial fields,”. 

Job-seeking youths

Securing a job is still challenging despite the economy going through a recovery phase. 

The government will raise the monthly incentive for employers who hire school leavers and graduates aged 18 to 30 from RM800 to RM900 for up to six months. 

This also means that the private sector should now be able to provide a monthly allowance of at least RM900 for students who are in industrial training or internships. 

As for Youths who are seeking to be entrepreneurs, the can look to Bank Simpanan Nasional and Agrobank which have earmarked RM150 million in financing funds for them. 

Job seekers are not left out as the RM4.8 billion JaminKerja initiative will guarantee 600,000 job opportunities nationwide.  

This includes 80,000 job placements under the Malaysia Short-term Employment Programme  (MySTEP) in the public sector and government-linked companies.

Upskilling and training

JaminKerja also aims to upscale the skills of 220,000 trainees at a cost of RM1.1 billion and tax exemptions of up to RM7,000 for courses taken from accredited professional bodies and RM2,000 for expenses in attending reskilling and upskilling courses until 2023.

The government has also allocated RM6.6 billion for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).  

Importance of health

This time round, RM32.4 billion has been allocated to the Health Ministry. 

A total of RM70 million will be channelled to mental health support programmes and there will be a wider scope of income tax exemption for health check-ups including consultations with psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and licensed counsellors.

The government is providing an additional RM4 billion to the Ministry of Health for Covid-19 management with RM2 billion going towards vaccination programmes.

Family assistance 

The Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia (BKM) scheme will provide cash aid totalling RM8.2 billion to 9.6 million recipients from low-income households and assistance to single parents, senior citizens and singles. 

The government introduced BKM to provide RM2,000 cash assistance to families with three or more children, with a monthly household income of below RM2,500 per month.

For households with a monthly income of RM2,501-RM5,000, RM800 would be given to families with three or more children.

This cash assistance is the largest compared with previous handouts under BPR for B40 households with two or more children receiving RM1,800, targeting three million recipients.

Under the BKM, the government will also provide an additional RM500 to single parents who earn less than RM5,000 while those who have dependents will receive an additional cash assistance of RM300.

Under the same initiative, senior citizens with less than RM5,000 monthly income will receive cash assistance of RM600.

I-Saraan extension

The Voluntary Contribution with Retirement Incentive (i-Saraan) under the Employees’ Provident Fund will be extended to those aged 55 to 60 years old, benefitting another 100,000 participants.

The i-Saraan allows the self-employed and those without a steady income to make voluntary contributions towards their retirement, and the government will contribute 15 per cent to a maximum of RM250 per such contributor a year.