DOLE may give additional cash aid to displaced workers if COVID-19 quarantine is extended

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 6) — The Labor Department would like to keep providing financial aid to displaced workers if the enhanced community quarantine gets extended, Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Monday.

"Kapag nagkaroon ng extension itong enhanced community quarantine [If the enhanced quarantine will be extended], we will recommend for the extension of the program of cash assistance... Depende na po ito sa decision ng Inter-Agency Task Force," said Bello said during the government's Laging Handa briefing.

Earlier, the agency set aside a ₱2-billion fund for financial assistance to workers unable to go to work due to quarantine protocols imposed in Luzon and later on implemented in other provinces and cities.

Each worker — whether a regular employee or a laborer in the informal sector — will be getting a one-time financial aid of ₱5,000 from DOLE. Employers must prepare their payrolls "at the soonest possible time" and submit it to the agency, which will allow DOLE to transfer the amount within 48 hours. If companies do not hand in their list of employees, Bello said workers can file an application by themselves.

Bello said it has approved the claims filed by 102,855 workers under formal employment and 72,703 informal sector beneficiaries as of Sunday. He added that they are still targeting to release millions of pesos to these displaced workers, who can still file for assistance until April 14.

The enhanced quarantine ends Sunday, but authorities said they still need to determine if an extension is necessary to contain the spread of the disease.

DOLE earlier projected that 250,000 Filipino workers would be covered by the funding aid, with priority given to those employes by small businesses and micro enterprises. However, Bello said an updated study by the National Economic and Development Authority showed that as much as 1.8 million Filipinos could lose their livelihood amid the COVID-19 crisis.

"For exigency, we would have to ask for additional budget allotment from the national government," Bello added.

Other workers may also choose to be employed under a 10-day temporary work arrangement, where they will be paid the daily minimum wage to disinfect their respective communities. Payouts will be given by April 14, Bello said.

The Labor secretary also said overseas Filipino workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 may be given some relief.