Is your wallet ready for the worst-case COVID-19 scenario? 1

Is your wallet ready for the worst-case COVID-19 scenario?

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at May 25 2020 10:14 AM

MANILA - When the quarantine restrictions began easing up after May 15, people were hoping for good news. Sadly, it opened the floodgates to the other kind.

A freelance writer was near tears complaining that in the one week that followed, all her utility and credit card bills arrived. One telecom company charged all the overdue bills at around the same time, making her wish she switched to the other telecom company pre-pandemic (which automatically enrolled subscribers to a wallet-smart 6-month installment scheme for their overdue balance).

A ballet studio owner, after realizing she will have to pay for rent for March and April and May despite no use, and struggle for the coming months as parents are demanding lesson fee refunds, and have no intention to send back their children for dance classes in the near future, decided to close shop.

A graphic design artist, already coping with reduced work hours and working from home, received confirmation their company will not reopen when the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified ECQ (MECQ) is lifted. Highly dependent on overseas clients, his boss apologized that their well dried up with the global health crisis.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary in a Senate hearing disclosed he estimates around 10 million Filipinos to lose their jobs from the pandemic. That’s close to 23 percent of the entire country’s labor workforce. He added that about 2.6 million are already out of work, and the hit was worse for service and tourism sectors as well as related businesses like restaurants and transportation.

On one bright note, a sales manager is being recalled to work. While relieved, he cannot help but worry if social distancing is possible when his day-to-day job pre-COVID 19 involved a great deal of face-to-face interaction with company executives, retail store owners and consumers. With two young children at home, is he putting them at risk too?

A microlending company was grateful for the greenlight to resume operations in certain areas, until it got hold of the DOLE Advisory No. 18, series of 2020. The guidelines made clear that employers shall shoulder the cost of COVID-19 prevention and control measures in the workplace. From testing to disinfection facilities to hand sanitizers, to personal protective equipment and signages, to proper orientation and training of workers, employers will have to take the lead and cannot charge any of the costs to employees. No doubt this will hit the bottom line of any company, but for micro and small businesses, will this bring them faster to their knees (if they are not yet kneeling)?

It looks like the worst is yet to come, and we all need to brace ourselves to survive not only this pandemic but even the next pandemic to come. There is no easy way to navigate the rough waters ahead, but there are three things that can help you, your wallet, and your family to ride it out.

#1 Know all the "ayuda" and benefits you are entitled to. [BOLD]

At the national level, the government has been distributing cash relief to Filipino families through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and DOLE. However, not all are qualified and in the case of DOLE, many workers were advised that the funds have run out.

The Social Security System is also providing a cash benefit to enrolled members, and this appears to be more efficiently distributed. Your employer must apply for you, and the cash will be deposited to your nominated bank account. To qualify, you must not have received any salary during the ECQ.

At the local government level, mayors of areas under ECQ and MECQ have introduced their own cash aid programs. In Makati City, Mayor Abby Binay announced some 500,000 residents will each receive P5,000. In Pasig City, Mayor Vico Sotto are giving families P8,000 each. In other cities, help comes in the form of food packages.

Make it a family assignment to research what benefits are available out there and how you can get them. Reach out to your barangay to make sure your name and your street are on the list of beneficiaries. Every little thing helps and this is the time for all the taxes you paid in the past (and will continue to pay) to work for you.

#2 Make time for an honest chat with your boss. [BOLD]

Worried about your job? Or you need help with bills? Talk it out with your boss and ask for help. He or she may know about company programs to provide relief to cash-challenged employees. Your boss may be able to also offer you comfort regarding your job security concerns. If lay-offs will happen, it may help for your boss to know that you want to keep your job. 

While lay off decisions are made by headcount, companies also consider who are the ones ready to cash in on their retirement. Putting it out there that you prefer to keep working may help keep your name off the layoff list.

#3 Time for a wallet-to-wallet talk with family. [BOLD]

You may be the family breadwinner, but the money problem should not rest entirely on your shoulders. Your spouse can help and your children too no matter their age. Everyone can be more conscious about stretching resources, managing waste and saving as much as possible.

Can your spouse work from home? From baking to cooking dishes for delivery, to buy and sell of household necessities, o many chat groups are active these days and people are buying from and supporting each other.

Ask your child to check out scholarships for the coming school year. Many schools are revisiting their traditional learning models, and if your child is one of the first to ask, they may be able to extend assistance. Consider other schools too, even homeschool programs. Aim to cut back on family expenses pre-pandemic by setting a realistic budget based on your present income. Do not forget to set aside something for savings. That will always be useful, with or without COVID-19. 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.