DOF releases P16.4-B subsidies to 2.1-M SBWS beneficiary-workers


The first tranche of a two-month wage subsidy package has been credited to the accounts of more than 2.1 million qualified beneficiary-workers of the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program, jointly implemented by the Department of Finance (DOF), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), and the Social Security System (SSS).


The SBWS was designed to support qualified workers who were not able to receive their salaries for at least two weeks due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and other containment measures imposed by the national and local governments since mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).


A total of about P16.4 billion-worth of subsidies were credited to the accounts of SBWS beneficiaries as of May 12, equivalent to P5,000 to P8,000 per qualified worker, depending on the minimum wage level in his or her region. 


SBWS subsidies are either credited to the beneficiaries' bank or PayMaya accounts or sent through cash remittance via MLhuillier Financial Services.


This SBWS initiative is one of the intervention programs that the Duterte administration has rolled out in support of low-income families, workers of small businesses, and other vulnerable sectors that are hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic's economic fallout. These programs are aligned with President Duterte's priorities of saving lives and protecting communities amid this global health crisis.


The SBWS interagency task force is chaired by the DOF, represented by Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito Lambino II, and with SSS President-CEO Aurora Ignacio and BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa as members.


Lambino said that MLhuillier Kwarta Padala, through the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), is the partner-remittance center of the SSS in the disbursement of wage subsidies to unbanked beneficiaries. 


The task force decided to tap the DBP because of its experience in delivering subsidies via money remittance to beneficiaries of the Department of Agriculture’s Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) program, many of whom do not have bank accounts.


Meanwhile, Ignacio reported that “almost 160,000 employers submitted applications for the program as the applications ended on May 8, 2020."


"The SSS is currently processing them, but so far, the applications for around 2.94 million employees have been approved according to program criteria. This represents around 86 percent of the program’s target of 3.4 million small business employees," she said.


The SSS had also earlier announced some reminders for employees claiming their subsidy through MLhuillier:


·      The SSS shall notify employees through SMS of the availability of their subsidies in MLhuillier. The text message shall contain the reference number to be used to claim the subsidy;


·      The SBWS shall only be available at MLhuillier outlets offering the Kwarta Padala cash remittance service. ML Express Business partners are not authorized to disburse the SBWS;


·      Employee-beneficiaries are required to bring at least one (1) valid ID with complete name (same as name registered with SSS), photo and signature. The government-issued Unified Multi-Purpose ID (UMID) is the best proof of identity to present;


·      When claiming the SBWS, employees are reminded to practice social distancing and prepare themselves physically (by wearing face masks and bringing their own ballpens, rubbing alcohol, drinking water, etc.);


·      Some local government units (LGUs) strictly impose limits on the number of clients who may line-up for businesses. MLhuillier branches shall try to accommodate employees or give them a schedule for claiming their subsidies; and 


·      The subsidies may be claimed until June 10, 2020. Subsidies not claimed after the said date shall be forfeited.


The national government is providing the wage subsidy to affected employees of small businesses to help mitigate the impact of the quarantine measures imposed by the national government and LGUs nationwide to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 


This wage subsidy shall be given for up to two months so that affected small businesses are able to retain their employees during the quarantine period.


Under the SBWS measure, the government, through the SSS, shall provide a wage subsidy of P5,000 to P8,000 per month for each qualified worker, based on the minimum wage levels in the beneficiaries' respective regions.


Payouts for the first tranche of the SBWS subsidies began on April 30, one day ahead of the announced May 1 to 15 schedule of release. 


Payouts for the second tranche are scheduled for May 16 to 31.