By ROGER M. BALANZA
THE SOCIAL HOUSING FINANCE CORPORATION (SHFC) has granted P1.5 Million in financial assistance to its contractual workers as emergency cash aid against the adverse economic impact of the New Corona Virus Disease 2019 or Covid-19.
The assistance was approved by the SHFC Board of Directors on March 31 as President Rodrigo Duterte issued a Proclamation of State of National Emergency that placed the country under Community Quarantine and the entire Luzon under an Expanded Community Quarantine.
The emergency declarations practically restricted people movement and closed down business including government local and national agencies, as health authorities battled Covid-19 which to-date has already claimed dozens of lives and thousands of infections.
As the battle against the coronavirus raged, President Duterte steered Congress into passing the Bayahihan To Heal As One Act which urged national unity against the deadly disease and financial assistance to those adversely affected by the economic dislocation of families, especially the poor.
In approving the resolution (during a video conference) granting financial assistance to its contractual employees, the SHFC Board of Directors noted that the contractual employees, like those in other government agencies who declared a lock down, were not spared from the economic crisis.
Earlier, Christopher R. Salise, president of the Social Housing Employees Association Inc. (SHEAI), requested SHFC president Atty. Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling to grant the financial assistance to the contractual employees as SHFC ordered a lock down in compliance with the presidential proclamation.
The employees are hired by the DBP Manpower Division and detailed as contract workers to SHFC, the government’s key housing agency implementing the country’s socialized housing program.
The SHFC earlier had requested DBP to release the salaries of the workers.
DBP, however, denied the request because it was running on a skeletal force and has no staff to process the payroll of the contractual workers, who may not also receive salaries while the Expanded Community Quarantine is in effect. This forced the SHFC to dig into its own funds to pay the financial assistance.
“Because of the financial difficulty resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, our contractual employees need to be financially prepared to enable them to buy enough food and other supplies for their families during this state of pandemic,” said the resolution of the SHFC Board.
“The SHC Management, in consultation with the SOHEAI, deemed it justifiable to grant financial assistance to our contractual employees….consistent with the government’s policy directives in containing the adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic” and assisting its contractual workers. The Board also noted that a number of the workers are “stuck in Manila” and need cash to pay for food and rental fees.
The resolution of the SHFC Board granting emergency assistance to the contractual workers was recommended during a March 25 meeting of the SHFC Management Committee (MC) and the Advisory Council (AC).
In the meeting, the twin body recommended that the SHFC “grant the much needed financial assistance on account of the financial hardship of the contractual employees whose safety, health and incomes are tested during the Covid-19 crisis, consistent with government directives affecting the poorest who are the most vulnerable.”
The financial assistance is only for contractual employees and not plantilla employees who already availed of early release of salaries and can also avail of loans from the SHFC Provident Fund.
The beneficiaries of the cash aid, amounting to a total of P1,537,200.00, are 457 contractual workers who will get, depending on their job descriptions, amounts of from P2,000 to P4,000.