THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said it released P1.04 billion to the Department of Health (DoH) to cover allowances for government and private-sector health workers who worked during the pandemic.
The Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) was approved on Monday for the special risk allowance (SRA) of eligible frontliners who were involved in the pandemic containment effort between Sept. 15, 2020 and June 30, 2021, according to the DBM.
The amount covers unpaid SRA claims of 55,211 qualified health workers, who are eligible for P5,000 for each month they were on duty during the period.
“Qualified health workers refer to medical, allied medical, and other personnel assigned in hospitals and healthcare facilities, and who are directly catering to or in contact with COVID-19 patients, persons under investigation (PUIs) or persons under monitoring (PUMs),” the DBM said.
The DoH submitted the documentation for the SRA early last month. The allowances are authorized by the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, an economic stimulus measure passed during the public health emergency.
The allowances are also authorized by the Duterte government’s Administrative Order (AO) No. 36. The AO, issued in November, carries the title “Authorizing the grant of COVID-19 SRA to Health Workers directly catering to or in contact with COVID-19 patients during the State of National Emergency.”
AO No. 42 later extended the SRA validity period to June 30, 2021.
Since the issuance of AO 36, SRA disbursements have totaled P11.857 billion.
“We understand and recognize the selflessness and immense sacrifice that our health workers continue to pour out throughout these turbulent times. Isa po itong paraan sa pagkilala sa kanilang sakripisyo (This is one way of recognizing their sacrifices),” Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman was quoted as saying in a statement.
“Rest assured that we will continue to closely coordinate with the DoH so that our healthcare workers get the allowances and benefits they deserve,” she added.
The DBM said that it has only received one other funding request from the DoH, which does not include the One COVID Allowance (OCA) that remains unpaid from before 2022.
“We only received two requests from DoH: one is for the P1.04 billion SRA, which we released yesterday, and the other is for the P11.5 billion for OCA (covering January to June 2022), which is already being processed,” DBM Undersecretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran said in a Viber message.
“We have not received a request for the P64-billion OCA covering the retroactive effect of the law,” she added.
At an online forum on Tuesday, DoH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said that the P11.5 billion is intended for about 1.6 million healthcare workers.
“I hope by next week we can start disbursing this money to communities for our healthcare workers,” she said.
Separately, Republic Act No. 11712, or the Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Health Care Workers Act, became law on April 27 covering “the period of the Public Health Emergency commencing from July 1, 2021.”
The law replaced the SRA with a Health Emergency Allowance (HEA), with the latter now determined by risk exposure.
“Risk exposure categorization as defined in the law, and their corresponding levels of allowances, are as follows: 1.) those deployed in ‘low risk areas’ shall be given at least P3,000; 2.) those deployed in ‘medium risk areas’ shall be given at least P6,000; and 3.) those deployed in ‘high risk areas’ shall be given at least P9,000,” the DBM said. — Diego Gabriel C. Robles