THE DEPARTMENT of Budget and Management (DBM) has released an additional P451.3 million for the special risk allowances (SRA) of health workers assigned to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) wards.

The DBM said in a statement Wednesday that P407.08 million was sourced from the contingent fund of the national budget, while the remaining P44.23 million was charged to the miscellaneous personnel benefits fund.

The additional allowances will be given to eligible public and private healthcare workers who were either directly catering to or are in contact with COVID-19 patients between Dec. 20, 2020 and June 30, 2021.

This brought the total SRA released to P8.23 billion so far, covering 499,117 health workers.

In response to a BusinessWorld query, the DBM said P1.185 billion is awaiting approval from the Office of the President (OP), which could benefit 63,812 more frontliners.

The DBM did not provide a timetable for the release of the funds awaiting OP approval.

The DBM said it is releasing additional funds to provide the risk allowance to health workers who were not covered when the Bayanihan to Recover as One or Bayanihan II law expired on June 30.

Under Bayanihan II, a special risk allowance of P5,000 per month was allotted for medical personnel assigned to facilities with COVID-19 patients, as well as a separate P3,000 monthly hazardous-duty allowance.

In a budget hearing earlier this month, the Department of Health (DoH) said it proposed a P73.99-billion budget to the DBM for 2022 budget, including P50.4 billion in new funds to support allowances of healthcare workers. However, the DoH said the budget for allowances was slashed by the executive department. — Beatrice M. Laforga