WHEN the movement control order was first announced in March and schools were shut, one kindergarten operator did not foresee that the partial lockdown would last longer than two weeks, let alone over three months.
“So as the days went by and the MCO kept being extended, our worries started to grow as well. Where was the money going to come from?” said Elaine Eu, the 54-year-old owner of Tadika Integrasi Jaya in USJ1, Selangor.
Thankfully for Eu and her staff of five teachers, the Wage Subsidy Programme under the Government’s National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) has been a life saver.
The Wage Subsidy Programme or PSU (Program Subsidi Upah) is to assist employers who are economically impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and to make sure they can continue operating while preventing workers from losing their jobs.
Malaysians earning less than RM4,000 a month are eligible for the subsidies with the amount depending on the size of the company’s workforce.
Companies that employ more than 200 people will receive RM600 per retained worker while those employing between 75 and 200 employees will get RM800. Those with fewer than 75 employees will get RM1,200.
Initially, the subsidy was for a period of three months, but this was extended to six months in total.
“The PSU has really helped us out with our costs, ” said Eu.
“Even though school has not been open since March, we still had to pay rental for our premises and the teachers’ salaries. The PSU was able to cover at least 30% of those costs and we are so grateful for that.”
Eu said that since the Education Ministry’s announcement that kindergartens are now allowed to reopen from July 1, her staff members have been busy cleaning up and preparing the premises in accordance with all the standard operating procedure outlined by the ministry.
“We have been tidying up the classrooms and cleaning up the surroundings. Hopefully that will spur the teachers’ enthusiasm to meet with our children and parents when school resumes, ” said Eu who opened the centre which employs the Q-Dees method of teaching in 2013.
“Many of our teachers have been with us from the start. So it never crossed our minds to have any layoffs. Even though we didn’t have any income for over three months, we paid their salaries in full and on time.
“This was important to us because we want our teachers to come back when school resumes. They are senior, very experienced and well-versed in our programmes. We don’t want to lose them.”
Eu shared that although it was time-consuming filling up the forms for the subsidy, in the end she was very pleased with how efficient the scheme was.
“It took us less than a month to get the money, which we are very grateful for, ” she said.
Going forward, Eu admits that the challenge will be gaining parents’ confidence in sending their kids back to school.
“If parents don’t send their children to kindergarten, we will continue to face a financial strain. When your child is just three or four years old, perhaps you will feel there is no necessity to send them to school. However, for us, this is our ricebowl.”
While there are no guarantees, Eu remains optimistic.
“In this line of work we have to find ways to sustain our business. The Government has been helpful, and we continue to hope that when faced with difficulty, they will have our back, and offer more incentives and loans with low interests, ” said Eu.
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