DSWD: Recommendation to increase cash grants for 4Ps beneficiaries 'timely'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 20) — The Department of Social Welfare and Development says the recommended increase in financial assistance for beneficiaries of the government's Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps is timely.

During Wednesday's Laging Handa virtual briefing, DSWD Undersecretary Rene Glen Paje said the agency supports the recommendation, which is among those made by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies in December last year.

"Iyong sa rekomendasyon po nila na dagdag na cash grant ay sa palagay naman po natin ay napapanahon at dahil nga dito sa pandemyang hinaharap natin ay binigyan po natin ito ng konsiderasyon," said the official.

[Translation: We think their recommendation for additional cash grant(s) is timely and especially given this pandemic, we have given it consideration.]

The state-run think tank recommended in a study published last month that it, along with the DSWD, should "study the need to establish a principle for adjusting the grant amount provided by the program ahead of the six-year schedule of reviewing the benefit level" as specified in Republic Act No. 11031 or the 4Ps Act.

The study found cash grants remained at their nominal levels between 2008 and 2016, despite their real values having already plummeted due to inflation. With this, the grants' ability to augment beneficiaries' incomes have also decreased. With this, it also recommends "if grant amounts cannot be adjusted proactively, supplementary interventions (other programs or other cash assistance) should be pursued."

Under the 4Ps Act, the amounts of cash grants provided to subsidiaries are expected to be adjusted every six years, with the program's Advisory Council given authority to recommend how much the grants would be.

Paje also explained that beginning 2020, beneficiaries have enjoyed larger cash grants as mandated by the 4Ps Act. For instance, household beneficiaries now receive ₱750 monthly from the previous ₱500 as health grant. Senior high school students are also being given ₱700 per month as educational grant, ₱200 higher from the original amount.

The amounts elementary and junior high school students receive on a monthly basis, however, remain at ₱300 and ₱500 respectively. Beneficiaries are likewise given rice subsidy worth ₱600 per month.

PIDS' study likewise recommended "differentiating the amount of the assistance for specific target beneficiaries," citing factors like gender or location as examples apart from the automatic adjustment of the grant amounts.

The group also recommended improving mechanisms for delivering cash to program beneficiaries by expanding the number of ATMs and local bank branches for claiming the grants, along with the streamlining of processes involving the resolution of grievances related to cash and cash cards for recipients.

"Alam po ng DSWD yung hamon ng cash grant delivery mechanisms kaya't ito po ay ginagawa nating prayoridad na pag-aralan sa 4Ps National Project Management Office upang maibigay sa mga beneficiaries natin ang maagap at nararapat na cash grants," said Paje.

[Translation: The DSWD knows the challenge posed by current cash grant delivery mechanisms, which is why we making the 4Ps National Project Management Office prioritize these among topics of study. This is in order to give our beneficiaries the appropriate cash grants at the earliest time possible.]