DOF releases guidelines on P51 billion wage subsidy

Mary Grace Padin - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Finance (DOF) has released the guidelines and step-by-step procedure on how workers employed by small businesses may avail of the government’s P51-billion wage subsidy program.

In an interview over PTV-4 Thursday night, officials of the DOF, Social Security System (SSS) and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) discussed the mechanics, details and eligibility criteria for the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program for 3.4 million employees in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).

“Through this wage subsidy, we are now helping their employees, mostly from the lower middle class, meet their basic needs, like food and medicine. Second, and just as important, we are helping these employees keep their jobs. The Small Business Wage Subsidy is an integral part of a support package that we are rolling out for small businesses,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said.

Under the program, wage subsidies ranging from P5,000 to P8,00o per month will be given to beneficiaries depending on the regions where they are employed.

The first tranche of the subsidy will be distributed on May 1 to 15, 2020, while the second tranche will be released from May 16 to May 31.

According to the DOF, small business workers may apply for the program until April 30, 2020.

To qualify, the applicant must be an employee of an eligible small business; employed and active as of March 1, 2020, but unable to work due to the enhanced community quarantine; and have not been paid for at least two weeks. They must be certified by the employer as having met all the criteria.

On the other hand, those working from home or as part of a company’s skeleton force; on leave for the entire duration of the community quarantine, whether with or without pay; already a recipient of SSS unemployment benefits due to COVID-19; and those who have already settled or processed their SSS final claims (funeral, retirement, death, and total disability), are not eligible for the program.

The owner or operator of the small business will be the one to apply on behalf of the eligible workers, the DOF said.

The employer, however, must first check the BIR website to see if his or her company is qualified under the SBWS.

According to the DOF, the company must not be in the BIR’s Large Taxpayer Service (LTS) list; and must be in non-essential industries that are forced to stop operations or quasi-essential industries that are allowed to operate a skeleton force.

Small firms that are registered with the BIR and SSS, with paid tax obligations and contributions in the past three years up to January 2020 will be prioritized under the SBWS.

“A qualified corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship will be able to generate a passcode that will be used to access the SSS website where the application of the eligible employees will be processed,” the DOF said.

Both the employer and employees will be notified if they have qualified under the wage subsidy program.

Eligible employees will be able to receive the subsidies through different channels, including the SSS UMID card, their bank account, Union Bank Quick Card, PayMaya, and remittance transfer companies.

SSS president and chief executive officer Aurora Ignacio encouraged SSS members to update their bank account or e-wallet details on their my.SSS account, as these will be the primary mode of distribution.

On top of the SBWS program, the Philippine government earlier unveiled a P205 billion Social Amelioration Program to support 18 million Filipino households who lost their sources of income due to the pandemic and the subsequent community quarantine.

Combining these two, Dominguez said the government is providing support to more than 21 million Filipino families in the country.

“We are about 24.6 million families all in all in the Philippines. So we are practically covering around 85 percent,” Dominguez said.




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