THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released P51 billion worth of funding for the government’s wage subsidy program for employees of small businesses, which will be rolled out starting next month.

In a mobile phone message Monday, Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado said that the DBM released both the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) for the funds intended for the subsidy program.

Mr. Avisado said the P51 billion will be sourced from “unprogrammed funds.”

According to a DBM document obtained by reporters, a P51-billion SARO was issued to the Social Security System (SSS), the main implementing agency, on Friday. The SARO was approved by the Office of the President on April 20.

Payouts for the first tranche of the P51-billion Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) will be given starting Friday, May 1 until May 15, with the second tranche to be distributed on May 16-31.

The application period for the subsidy program was extended until May 8 from the earlier April 30 cutoff after the SSS website went down for a few days after it started accepting applications on April 16.

The government said the program will extend cash handouts worth P5,000-P8,000 to some 3.4 million employees of small businesses affected by the lockdown.

Small businesses are defined as those not belonging to the top 2,745 large taxpayers of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Employees eligible for the program should not have been retrenched or resigned.

Applicants of the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) of the Labor department will be transferred to the SBWS program..

CAMP beneficiaries will only be eligible for a one-month wage subsidy. The second tranche of the government’s P205-billion cash aid to 18 million poor families and those belonging to the informal sector will also begin next month. — Beatrice M. Laforga