Less restriction, more benefit sought for senior citizens

LAWMAKERS at the House of Representatives have appealed to the administration to reconsider the rule prohibiting senior citizens, or those 60 years old and above, from going outside their home even under the more relaxed quarantine policy that will take effect May 1 in parts of the country. “Many of our senior citizens are still strong and gainfully employed or are active in business. We don’t need to completely disallow them from leaving their homes just because of their age,” Representatives Enrico A. Pineda and Francisco G. Datol, Jr. said in a joint statement on Wednesday. Mr. Datol, who represents the Senior Citizens Party-list and chairs the related House committee, said the seniors “also need to go outside to move around,” and that locking them up indoors could be bad for their health. Mr. Pineda, representing 1-Pacman Party-list chair of the committee on labor and employment, cited that many key leaders in both government and the private sector are over 60. Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) is already considering to exempt some senior citizens from the stay-at-home policy. He acknowledged that many decision-makers in companies and the government are senior citizens. “I think 80% of the Cabinet are senior citizens as well. So I hope they come up with exceptions to the rule that says that senior citizens, together with the youth will have to stay indoors,” he said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).

Meanwhile, Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel has filed a resolution seeking to expand the coverage of the emergency fund to include all families with a senior citizen member. Under Senate Resolution No. 370, the Social Amelioration Program should cover even senior citizens who receive a monthly pension from their previous formal employment — provided by the Social Security System (SSS) for the private sector, and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for public workers. “A massive number of senior citizens who were left out of the initial DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) memorandum only receives P5,000 or less a month under SSS and GSIS pension programs and only as mere supplement to their informal income,” the senator said in a statement. She added that many of the country’s senior citizens are still part of the informal sector, whose livelihoods have been badly hit by restrictions under the enhanced community quarantine policy. She also noted that senior citizens are among the most vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which has so far infected more than 7,900 and killed 530 people in the country. She said, “An overwhelming majority of our senior citizens are poor, and the COVID-19 crisis managed to magnify their physical and financial vulnerabilities.” — Genshen L. Espedido and Charmaine A. Tadalan

GSIS reports death benefit tally for gov’t health workers in COVID-19 frontline

THE GOVERNMENT Service Insurance System (GSIS), which covers the public sector, reported a total of P13.5 million will be released for the beneficiaries of eight health workers who have died in the frontline against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). GSIS President Rolando L. Macasaet, in a briefing on Wednesday, said the death benefit has been increased from the regular P300,000 to P500,000 life insurance with an additional P500,000 from the agency. The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the law covering COVID-19 measures, also provides that “a compensation of one million pesos (P1,000,000.00) shall be given to public and private health workers, who may die while fighting the COVID-19.” As of April 28, Department of Health data shows 27 health care workers have succumbed to COVID-19 out of the 1,245 who have so far contracted the virus. — Gillian M. Cortez

DoLE realigns P1.5B fund to cover more displaced workers


THE Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) announced on Wednesday that it has realigned P1.5 billion from its 2020 budget to cover more workers displaced by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. In a statement, DoLE said the redirected fund will “provide a one-time assistance of P5,000 to an additional 300,000 workers already processed under the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP).” The CAMP fund will now be P3.24 billion. DoLE closed its applications for CAMP last April 15 as the original P1.6 billion allocation could no longer cover all the requests filed nationwide. As of April 29, the department said it has already released the cash subsidy to 407,300 workers. Despite the additional fund, about a million applications will still not be covered. The Department of Finance is implementing the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) Program, which will provide a P5,000 to P8,000 per month aid for two months to affected workers. Those who were not able to avail of assistance under CAMP can apply for the SBWS. Those who have received CAMP assistance can also apply but will only be qualified for a one month subsidy. — Gillian M. Cortez