MANILA – Cash grants totaling PHP10.1 billion have been credited to more than 1.2 million employees of small businesses so far under the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program as part of the Duterte administration’s efforts to provide relief to poor and low-middle-income families along with other vulnerable sectors hardest-hit by the economic fallout from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, in a statement said, “according to a report from the SBWS interagency task force, the first tranche of subsidies has been credited to a total of 1,261,044 beneficiary employees as of May 6. The amount of P10.1 billion has been deposited to the employees’ bank or PayMaya accounts and sent to MLhuillier, for those who chose to receive the subsidy via money remittance.”
MLhuillier Kwarta Padala, through the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), is the partner-remittance center of the Social Security System (SSS) in the disbursement of wage subsidies to unbanked beneficiaries.
The SBWS interagency task force is chaired by the Department of Finance (DOF), represented by Assistant Secretary Antonio Lambino II, and with SSS president and CEO Aurora Ignacio and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa as members.
Approximately 183,677 more beneficiaries were expected to receive their cash subsidies by May 7, Dominguez added.
He said, “The SSS has partnered with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to automate the payout of the subsidy, which has allowed the distribution to scale up in a short span of time.”
Many employers and employees took to social media to acknowledge that they have received the subsidy from government. Some were featured by the DOF, SSS, and BIR on their Facebook pages:
Anthony Gaw, the owner of a company that specializes in large-format printing, said, “Nais naming magpasalamat sa tulong ng pamahalaan. Sa dalawang buwan na lockdown, imposibleng mabuhay ang mga tauhan namin ng walang support. Salamat at natulungan niyo ang sambayanang manggagawa. (We would like to thank government for the assistance. During this two-month lockdown, it is impossible for our employees to survive without support. Thank you for helping the working people.)
“Napakalaking tulong nito lalo na sa tulad kong single parent, para maitawid ang pangangailangan ng pamilya ko hanggang sa matapos ang ECQ, (This will really help single parents like myself supply the needs of our families until the ECQ ends,)” said Rona Espinosa, Human Resource Assistant at Brand Ambassadors Corporation.
Meanwhile, Josefina Perido, Authorized Managing Officer of EJB Okawa Construction Corp., said that she is “masayang masaya na kahit papaano ‘yung mga [nasa] private [sector] hindi nakakalimutan. Like, in our case, nahinto lahat ng production namin. Natutuwa kami na na-recognize ang [aming sitwasyon]. (happy that the government has not forgotten those in the private sector. In our case, all production was halted. We are just happy that the government has recognized our situation).”
SSS President and CEO Aurora Ignacio said “more than 101,400 employers have submitted applications for the SBWS program as of May 7, 7 a.m. These applications, all submitted electronically, are being processed by the SSS. So far, the applications for around 2.2 million employees have been approved according to program criteria. This represents around 65 percent of the program’s target of 3.4 million beneficiary employees.”
The SBWS aims to provide a monthly wage subsidy of PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 for two months to around 3.4 million eligible employees of small businesses affected by the work stoppages resulting from the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon and similar containment measures in other parts of the country that were imposed last March to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The initial payouts, which represent 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.
The SBWS program is part of the government’s Covid-19-related interventions to support vulnerable groups and individuals, including micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that employ the majority of Filipino workers.
Other ongoing efforts include:  The extension of tax filing and payment deadlines;  a 30-day grace period for the payment of all loans, including credit card payments and pawnshop loans, falling due within the ECQ period, without imposition of interest on interest or any additional charges, fees or penalties;  a credit guarantee program to cover P120 billion-worth of loans to small businesses, and  proposals to the Congress to provide stimulus to the economy. (ia/DOF)