A LEGISLATOR urged the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to expedite the release of stimulus funds intended to help small firms stay afloat.

With only one month left before the expiration of Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II), House Deputy Majority Leader Bernadette Herrera-Dy said DTI needs to ensure that struggling micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) will benefit from the P10 billion allocated under the law’s COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program.

“Congress allocated that amount precisely to help these struggling MSMEs so that they could continue operating and paying their employees,” the legislator, representing Bagong Henerasyon Party-list, said.

“Our economy is slowly opening up again and our MSMEs will play a big role in its revival, so we should provide them with the necessary assistance right away,” she added.

According to the DTI, P8 billion out of the P10 billion allotted for CARES has been released to the Small Business Corp. (SB Corp.).

The P10 billion was intended as assistance to MSMEs and the tourism industry in the form of low-interest loans.

The CARES fund was expected to benefit around 100,000 enterprises and 200,000 workers.

However, the DTI has said that only 6,600 loans have been approved so far, equivalent to P1.2 billion, while 26,000 CARES loan applications remain pending with SB Corp.

“The DTI should push SB Corp. to fast-track the processing of loans and release the money to qualified MSMEs as soon as possible,” Ms. Herrera-Dy said.

She said MSMEs are among the hardest-hit by the pandemic in large part due to the most stringent and longest lockdown in Southeast Asia.

“The pandemic pushed many MSMEs into financial hardship, prompting them to either shut down permanently or lay off some workers just to stay afloat,” Ms. Herrera-Dy said.

Bayanihan II succeeded the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which gave President Rodrigo R. Duterte special powers to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bayanihan II expires on Dec. 19. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza