By Fred M. Lobo
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the release a P50.8-billion wage subsidy for middle-income workers affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) over Luzon in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
“Our government must deliver…tangible assistance to (all) those in need during this crisis, he said.
Duterte said the wage subsidy program would benefit 3.4 million workers of 1.6 million small businesses which have stopped or slowed down operations due to the quarantine.
A timely remedy to no work, no pay, no eat problem of middle income workers.
Medium and big-scale businesses are not covered by this wage subsidy because they can still withstand the burden, Cabinet Sec. Karlo Alexi Nograles said.
The wage subsidy will be similar to the government’s P200-billion emergency subsidy program for 18-million low-income families, he added.
Nograles explained that middle income beneficiaries will get subsidies ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 per family for the months of April and May.
The first tranche will be paid out between May 1 and May 15 while the second tranche will be paid out on May 16 to May 30, he said.
Nograles said the cash aid may be received through SSS Unified Multi-Purpose ID (UMID) card enrolled as ATM cards, PayMaya, eWallet or through remittances.
But those who already received aid through the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) will no longer be eligible for the first tranche but only the second tranche, he clarified.
Duterte said that Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla and other concerned sectors asked for the inclusion of middle-class families in the cash subsidy program .
They, too, were hit by COVID-19 economically just like “the poorest of the poor.”
Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez added that small businesses will likewise be helped through a P120-billion credit guarantee program.
Meanwhile, the President authorized the speedy procurement of rapid test kits for the new coronavirus disease despite pending approval by local regulatory authorities.
“ I take the risk… clear the way” to curb the spread of the coronavirus, he said.
The President asked Health Sec Francisco Duque III and Inter-agency Task Force Head Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. to buy the test kits immediately so that the government can do the testing along with the private sector.
The President also said he would lift the quarantine once anti-bodies cure is found .
Major foreign pharmaceutical firms are developing the “cure” and may start selling these medicine next month, he said.
“One of them has developed an anti-body… They are catching up with one another, he assured.
So let’s think positive… but stay COVID-negative!