Solon says DSWD can release COVID-19 crisis cash aid before Holy Week

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 02 2020 04:25 PM | Updated as of Apr 02 2020 05:50 PM

A volunteer sprays alcohol and enforces physical distancing to street dwellers as they queue for their lunch inside the Malate Catholic School Gymnasium in Manila. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- The Department of Social Welfare and Development could immediately release the government's cash aid to majority of the target 18 million Filipino households affected by the enhanced community quarantine, House Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte said Thursday.

Villafuerte, a principal author of the Bayanihan to Heal As One law, said the DSWD can already use its existing list of beneficiaries, that includes 15 million poor families, so it could start disbursing this Friday until the Holy Week next week.

Doing so would relieve the agency of the tedious task of verifying the eligibility of 18 million families who are target beneficiaries of the P200-billion fund authorized by the law, the lawmaker said.

“The cash grants should be released ASAP to these households who are struggling to survive into the third week of the month-long ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) that the government has imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” Villafuerte said.

DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said Thursday the agency will distribute the government subsidies in cash, ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 per family for 2 months.

While the DSWD can process the cash aid in a minimum of 3 days, validation of beneficiaries, however, would "take time," Bautista said.

The agency had said it will circulate Social Amelioration Cards that the target beneficiaries need to fill up first.

Villafuerte explained that the DSWD can already use its existing list for the initial distribution of cash grants and just follow-through with the sign-up and validation of the 3 million remaining household beneficiaries.
 
"This means that of the 18 million target households under the Bayanihan Law, there are already 15 million on the DSWD’s Listahanan list who are qualified to receive such financial aid right away and with no need for further validation,” he said.

Villafuerte said this is in keeping with President Rodrigo Duterte's directive not to delay the delivery of financial aid to the vulnerable sector.

INFORMATION DISSEMINATION

A House ad-hoc committee on COVID-19, of which Villafuerte is a part, will also suggest that the DSWD put up a social media page where the public can view the complete list of beneficiaries in each barangay, and air their concerns.
 
“For the House panel, the DSWD should tap technology to implement the ESP (emergency subsidy program) as quickly as possible and without any stain of graft and corruption as so desired by President Duterte,” Villafuerte said.

The lawmaker urged the DSWD to simplify the social amelioration card forms and do away with barcoding, which "presents its own problems because this would mean the use of a specific bar code for the SACs in each and every barangay."
 
“How and where are these LGUs going to acquire barcode devices at this time of the month-long lockdown?” he said.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government began the process for the cash grant system on Wednesday as local government units were urged to submit the beneficiaries in their areas.

A labor official also reported that, as of Wednesday, 25,428 formal sector workers and 5,220 from the informal sector were already given cash aid, and that many more will get their share after the agency received P2 billion from the budget department for the said purpose.