MANILA – The Social Security System (SSS) has so far provided about 196,000 members of its pension fund a total of PHP2.62 billion in unemployment insurance benefits, most of it released during the pandemic.
Finance Secretary and Social Security Commission (SSC) chairman Carlos Dominguez III said PHP2.35 billion or 90 percent of the cash grants under the SSS unemployment insurance benefit (UIB) program were released during the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic period from March 2020 to June 2021.
In his letter to the Senate, Dominguez said 173,791 out of the total of 196,021 SSS members who availed of the UIB received them during the pandemic period as of June this year.
“Implemented effective March 2019, the UIB program is among the key institutional responses of the SSS to the Covid-19 pandemic for its affected members since March 2020. From March 2020 until June 2021, the SSS has paid out PHP2,354.33 million in UIB, and this has benefitted 173,791 members,” Dominguez said in his letter addressed to Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
His letter was in response to the query of Senator Grace Poe Llamanzares, one of the vice chairpersons of the Senate finance committee, regarding the provision of financial assistance to unemployed workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The inquiry was made during the Sept. 9 briefing by the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) on the proposed National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2022 to the Senate finance committee chaired by Sen. Sonny Angara.
Angara and Poe were furnished copies of Dominguez’s letter.
Under the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, Dominguez said the UIB shall be granted provided that the separation or involuntary unemployment of the members was a result of any of, but not limited to, authorized causes of termination of employee, including redundancy, retrenchment/downsizing, and closure/cessation of operation; just causes for ending employment relationship; economic downturn; natural or human-induced calamities/disasters; and other analogous cases.
Amid the pandemic, the SSS has made it easier and more convenient for members to apply for UIB claims by allowing applications online through the My.SSS member portal in the SSS website, Dominguez said.
The SSS also started using electronic payment systems in releasing the UIB and other benefit claims in line with Dominguez’s instructions for the pension fund to digitize its system to speed up the grant of loans and benefits to its members.
Under Section 14-B of RA 11199, a member who is not over 60 years of age and who has paid at least 36 months of contributions, of which 12 should be within the 18-month period immediately preceding the involuntary unemployment or separation, shall be paid benefits in the form of monthly cash payments equivalent to half of his or her average monthly salary credit for a maximum of two months.
As an example, Dominguez said that if a member’s average monthly salary credit (AMSC) is at PHP16,000, he or she may receive a two-month UIB cash benefit amounting to PHP16,000 (or PHP8,000 for each month), subject further to eligibility conditions and submission of supporting documents, including the certification from the Department of Labor and Employment on the employee’s involuntary separation.
Under the law, an employee who is involuntarily unemployed can only claim the UIB once every three years.
In case of the concurrence of two or more compensable contingencies, RA 11199 states that only the highest benefit shall be paid, subject to the rules and regulations that the SSC may prescribe. (PNA)