Cash-strapped DOLE suspends cash aid but DBM said funds are coming

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
Cash-strapped DOLE suspends cash aid but DBM said funds are coming
This April 2, 2020 photo shows a queue of people wearing face masks.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Cash aid for formal workers was suspended on Thursday, but this appears to be temporary as the government vowed to funnel more funds to the program that has so far left more than 1 million workers hanging.

In a statement, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it is suspending its COVID-19 adjustment measures program (CAMP) as funds for the program “is very close to be depleted.”

More than 1.5 million employees applied for the program, but only 236,412 people were granted a one-time subsidy of P5,000 each from March 23 to April 15. While new applications will no longer be accepted, DOLE said it will continue to process 85,863 pending papers before its office. By month's end, the program will culminate having assisted 321,975 beneficiaries.

“We seek the full understanding of employers and workers who were unable to receive the assistance. The requests simply ballooned beyond the capacity of DOLE’s resources,” the department said in a statement.

CAMP, which has been running since March 23, days after the entire Luzon was placed on lockdown, has a budget of P1.6 billion sourced from DOLE’s regular 2020 outlay. 

Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique Tutay said fund augmentation was supposed to come from the P5 billion requested from the Office of the President, which was also recommended by the interagency task force on emerging infectious diseases, but only P1.5 billion was approved.

“IATF is recommendatory. Of the P5 billion, only P1.5 billion was released to us for the OFW (overseas Filipino workers program),” Tutay said in a Viber message.

More funds to be released

But in a text message to Philstar.com, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the department would soon authorize the release of another P2.5 billion to CAMP. “We are just waiting for the list (of beneficiaries) that DOLE will submit,” Avisado said.

Tutay did not confirm if DOLE already submitted the needed documents for fund release, but she said DOLE is ready to restart CAMP as soon as new funds become available, although not all applicants would get subsidized. 

“If there will be P2.5-billion release, then we can cover additional 500,000 workers from over a million applicants that we already processed,” she said.

Meanwhile, Tutay said DOLE already sent to the finance department the list of workers who did not receive aid so they can be considered under the agency’s program for small businesses, which will be launched next month.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III is scheduled to discuss how CAMP applicants will be treated under the program granting cash for employees of small firms on a televised interview on Thursday, 8 p.m. The program will give a lump-sum assistance of P5,000 and P8,000 each to an estimated 3.4 million workers.

Meanwhile, DOLE said it is now preparing programs for workers and employers to help them adjust after the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon lapses on April 30. “We are preparing a menu of programs that will complement the efforts of the government to effectively address the needs of workers,” it added.

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