Gov't releases P92.41 billion in cash aid 2 weeks before end of Luzon lockdown: report

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 21 2020 01:27 PM

MANILA - Government has released P92.41 billion in cash aid for poor families and displaced workers during the coronavirus crisis, 2 weeks before the scheduled end of Luzon's enhanced community quarantine, according to a Palace document released Monday.

At least 4.51 million poor households, public utility drivers, farmers, and workers who were displaced due to the work stoppage imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 have received cash aid as of last week, according to President Rodrigo Duterte's fourth weekly report to Congress.

Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One law, the executive branch must distribute a monthly stipend of between P5,000 and P8,000 for two months to 18 million poor families.

As of April 18, only 4 million families have received the cash aid from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, according to the document.

Of these beneficiaries, 3.72 million were part of the conditional cash transfer program, while 40,418 other beneficiaries are public utility drivers in Metro Manila.

At least P73.84 billion or 91 percent of P100 billion allocated for DSWD's Special Amelioration Program "has already been downloaded to local government units," the report read.

The Department of Agriculture also distributed P645 million to 52,043 farmers affected by the coronavirus crisis. The amount released is less than a quarter of the P3-billion budget for 591,246 farmers in need of help, according to the report.

The Department of Labor and Employment, meanwhile, has spent P1.18 billion to provide a P5,000 cash assistance to each of the 237,653 formal sector workers who applied for financial aid from the agency.

Another P410.7 million was used to provide cash assistance for 178,549 informal sector workers, the report said.

The Labor department needs to disburse at least P500 million more to help 84,322 formal sector workers and some 57,400 laborers who have yet to receive cash aid from the government.

Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who were displaced due to the global pandemic have yet to receive financial assistance from the government as "approved applications are being processed for payment," the President's report to Congress read.

The executive report did not elaborate why the distribution of cash aid has yet to reach at least half of the intended beneficiaries, but instead noted other means of support provided to the poor.

"In addition to the emergency subsidy program, the DSWD... provides assistance on COVID-related (e.g. medical/burial assistance) concerns to 17,232 clients and has so far utilized P80.20 million," it said.

The DSWD has also procured and distributed food packs amounting to P1.34 billion, it said.

Transportation for frontliners, as well as subsidies for small businesses and patients who contracted COVID-19, were also offered, it said.

The report did not cite the number of health workers and Filipino patients who availed of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation's (PhilHealth) "full financial risk protection" package, or if the insurance agency can fully cover those expenses.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier urged the DSWD to publish on its website the list of cash aid beneficiaries to promote better transparency during the coronavirus crisis.

"Sa panahon ng krisis, mahalagang siguruhin natin na hindi naaabuso ang sistema," Sotto said.

(During a crisis, we have to ensure that the system is not abused.)

"Political patronage should be set aside during this difficult time. We should all work together to ensure that government is not hoodwinked by abusive leaders," he said.