More than 1.2 million Filipinos who had worked for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that temporary closed down during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed in Luzon and other parts of the country already received a total of P10.1 billion in wage subsidies from the government, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Friday.

“According to a report from the small business wage subsidy (SBWS) inter-agency 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,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said in a statement.

The DOF chairs the SBWS interagency task force, represented by Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Joselito G. Lambino II.

Last Thursday, about 183,677 additional SBWS beneficiaries should have received their wage subsidies, Dominguez said.

The Social Security System (SSS) has partnered with Development Bank of the Philippines to automate the payout of the subsidy, which has allowed the distribution to scale up in a short span of time, Dominguez explained.

MLhuiller Kwarta Padala, meanwhile, is the SSS’s partner to distribute cash aid to unbanked displaced workers.

The first tranche of wage subsidies was scheduled to be distributed on May 1 to 15, to be followed by a second round on May 16 to 31.

The DOF last week reported that wage subsidy distribution started as early as April 30.

About 3.4 million affected workers nationwide will receive P5,000 to 8,000 in cash for two months as a form of relief while the economy is on standstill amid the ECQ that started in mid-March and further extended until mid-May in areas with high COVID-19 cases.

A total of P51 billion will be given away under the SBWS program.

“More than 101,400 employers have submitted applications for the SBWS program as of [the morning of] May 7. 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,” SSS president and chief executive Aurora C. Ignacio said.

Application for SBWS ended on Friday (May 8) instead of the original April 30 deadline as the SSS website—where employers needed to submit their applications—had hit a snag, having been down for a week after the program was launched last April 16.

The SBWS was a joint program of the DOF, the SSS, and the Bureau of Internal Revenue to extend financial assistance to displaced workers and their employers badly hit by the socioeconomic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. INQ

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