With increasing reports on workers left to fend on their own, Senator Joel Villanueva has reiterated his appeal for additional funding of the emergency employment programs of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Villanueva lamented the “missed opportunity” of the wage subsidy program complementing the DOLE’s COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) and Tulong Pangkabuhayan para sa Ating mga Distressed/Displaced Workers (TUPAD), whose funds are nearly exhausted.
“The wage subsidy program should have been complementary to our emergency employment programs like CAMP and TUPAD. We could have provided assistance to more workers,” Villanueva said in a statement. “Those who will not be able to return to work immediately should continue to receive government assistance as we resume operations of industries and sectors gradually.”
The Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program, which the government rolled out on April 16 using the platform of the Social Security System (SSS) for registration, suffered a massive downtime two days later after its launch with the deluge of applications from businesses under the micro, small, and medium enterprise (MSME) category. The SSS announced the deadline extension for applications until May 8 as it worked on restoring the platform.
Some 130,188 employee applications (3.8 percent) have been processed by the SSS, according to the latest Bayanihan Report to Congress which the government submitted on Monday. The SBWS program targets an estimated 3.4 million workers in MSMEs.
Under the SBWS program, the government will grant employees of qualified MSMEs a wage subsidy ranging P5,000 to P8,000 each, depending where the business is located.
“Our workers are suffering too much already. We seek assurance from the SSS that it will be able to handle all applications considering it has so far processed only 3.8 percent of their target 3.4 million workers,” the lawmaker said.
Villanueva said the SBWS program should be as accessible to workers as DOLE’s CAMP, which was suspended on April 15 after its fund was depleted. The labor department sought P7.8 billion to implement all its emergency employment programs, but the national government only approved P4 billion.
Villanueva said his office received reports that some firms and sectors are ineligible to apply for SBWS, effectively turning away CAMP applicants who were not able to get the assistance.
The government has given P1.746 billion in cash assistance through CAMP, reaching 98.7 percent of its target 349,354 beneficiaries, according to the government’s latest Report to Congress on the Bayanihan law. Workers in the formal economy, which are the primary beneficiaries of CAMP, received a one-time cash assistance worth P5,000.
Meanwhile, TUPAD has reached 93.4 percent of its target 235,949 beneficiaries in the informal economy. Beneficiaries work for 10 days and are paid the prevailing minimum wage in their area./Stacy Ang