P2.62B unemployment benefits released by SSS

STATE-run Social Security System (SSS) announced it has so far provided a total of P2.62 billion in unemployment insurance benefits to nearly 200,000 members of the pension fund.

Finance Secretary and Social Security Commission (SSC) chairman Carlos Dominguez III said the bulk or P2.35 billion of the total cash grants under the SSS Unemployment Insurance Benefit (UIB) program was released during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly from March 2020 to June this year.

In his letter to the Senate, Dominguez said that as of June this year, 173,791 out of the total of 196,021 SSS members who used the program received the UIB.

“Implemented effective March 2019, the UIB program is among the key institutional responses of the SSS for its affected members since March 2020,” Dominguez said in his letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

According to the SSS, the total covered SSS members reached 40.52 million as of May.

Dominguez sent the letter in response to Senator Grace Poe’s earlier query on the provision of financial assistance to unemployed workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The inquiry was made during the September 9, 2021 briefing by the Development Budget Coordination Committee on the proposed National Expenditure Program for 2022 to the Senate finance committee chaired by Sen. Juan Edgardo M. Angara. Angara and Poe have furnished copies of Dominguez’s letter.

Under the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act (RA) 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, the UIB shall be granted provided that the separation or involuntary unemployment of the members as a result of any of, but not limited to, the following: authorized causes of termination of an 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.

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 is at P16,000, he or she may receive a 2-month UIB cash benefit amounting to P16,000 (or P8,000 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.

Apart from releasing unemployment insurance benefits, Dominguez claims the SSS has made it easier and more convenient for members to apply for UIB claims by allowing applications online.

The SSS also started using electronic payment systems in releasing the UIB and other benefit claims in line with the pension fund manager’s digitization push.

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