Funds for social amelioration released to agencies 'within 24 to 72 hours' –DBM

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Funds for social amelioration released to agencies 'within 24 to 72 hours' �DBM
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines – Funds for the government’s social amelioration program during the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) outbreak will be made available to agencies within one to three days following submission of complete documents, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.

“Once we receive the request, within 24 to 72 hours at the latest, we can credit the funds, for as long as complete documents and requirements,” Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said in a text message.

On Thursday morning, DBM already credited to the bank account of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) P100 billion, representing half of the P200-billion budget for the program meant to financially support people who lost their jobs and livelihood due to the outbreak.

The program would grant between P5,000 and P8,000 to 18 million families estimated to have been displaced by work stoppage brought by the outbreak and the month-long Luzon community quarantine intended to stem the virus’ spread. The quarantine, which lapses on April 12 unless extended, was already halfway through when President Duterte announced the assistance last Monday.

“Specifically, the released amount shall be used for the protective services for individuals and families in especially difficult circumstances or assistance to individuals in crisis situations,” DBM said in a statement.

“(This) shall be extended to the target low-income household beneficiaries in the form of cash,” it added.

As it is, Avisado said DBM does not anticipate any delays in fund releases to agencies, but rather on how agencies like DSWD quickly disburse the money. This is especially crucial on the cash subsidy, which has to be coursed through local government units, which in turn, are in charge of distributing funds to their constituents. 

“The distribution system is the one that needs to be efficient and fast because there are many people who need to be assisted,” the budget chief said.

DBM and the Department of Finance (DOF) issued Joint Circular No. 1, which laid out the guidelines for the fund release on what the government dubbed as the largest social protection program in Philippine history.

Specifically, the guidelines tasked the Bureau of the Treasury to identify idle funds within state agencies, corporations and other institutions which will be primarily used to fund the social amelioration program. DOF earlier said within state corporations alone, around P100 billion can be raised. 

Available funds would then be pooled, and for frontline agencies like DSWD, a “special budget request” would have to be submitted to the DBM to access funding. An allotment order and notice of cash allocation— documents needed for cash release— would then be issued.

“All budgetary accounting and auditing rules and regulations shall still be applied,” the circular said.

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