DSWD eyes improved cash aid distribution after noting 'shortcomings'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 9) — The Department of Social Welfare and Development on Thursday admitted challenges in distributing the cash subsidy to low income families who are financially suffering due to the COVID-19 crisis, saying the problem started at the local government level.

DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said in a televised briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte and other Cabinet secretaries the department turned over P80 billion to its field offices as early as April 3, shortly after the Budget department released a P100 billion-emergency fund to their office.

Beneficiaries under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps and families with members working as public utility drivers have already received their cash subsidy this week because the DSWD has a "credible" list of these groups.

Bautista pointed out they encountered a problem when local governments failed to present a complete list of target beneficiaries.

"Dito po naranasan natin na mayroong, sabihin na natin, naging problema kasi po ang listahan ng mga taong babayaran ay hindi po available," the official said.

[Translation: Here we experienced, we can say we faced a problem because the list of beneficiaries was not available.]

"But as we continue to engage the LGU, municipal, city social welfare development offices, we were able to identify and determine what are the gaps and the shortcomings," Bautista added.

He explained they were expecting the LGUs to have a prepared tally which contains their constituents’ profiles and other livelihood activities.

Early this week, some of the LGUs were saying the number of beneficiaries approved by the DSWD is lower than the actual count in their communities.

In Quezon City, approved by the DSWD so far is 377,000 families, when estimates indicate there are over 700,000 qualified beneficiaries, City Administrator Mike Alimurung told CNN Philippines earlier.

Other local governments were having the same issue, including some municipalities in Cavite. 

READ: Distribution of cash aid in Quezon City to begin in two weeks or later

The LGUs were previously tasked to submit their databases of qualified beneficiaries to the national government. To do this, they will distribute “social amelioration cards” or SAC to those applying for subsidy.

These cards, which are forms that aid in identifying whether or not a family is eligible to get an cash assistance, will then be sent back to DSWD. These are also meant to ensure there would be no duplicate entries, Bautista said.

Families covered include the homeless, those with at least one member who is on a no-work-no pay situation, a senior citizen, a solo parent, a person with disability or a pregnant and lactating woman. Full list could be accessed here.

Those in Metro Manila could get up to P8,000 while those in other regions will receive P5,000 to P6,000.

The joint memorandum, dated March 28, provides guidelines on the social amelioration measures including basing the amount each household will get on the prevailing minimum wage per region.

Aside from DSWD, the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Agriculture each have social amelioration programs. Affected workers could apply for a one-time financial assistance to DOLE.

The DTI is also implementing a P1 billion-enterprise rehabilitation financing program, which aims to help micro- small- and medium enterprises. DA, meanwhile, is offering loans and other forms of relief to those in the agriculture sector.

Bautista then urged LGUs to be “vanguards” in the DSWD's social amelioration program.

"Ang akin lang pong advice sa ating lahat na (My advice for us all), this is not the time for blame game. Dapat (It is a must) that we should help one another in any form we can," Bautista said.

On March 25, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the law declaring the existence of a national emergency. It also granted him additional powers to address the COVID-19 crisis, which includes the provision of emergency subsidy to "18 million low income households ... a month for two months."