`Ayuda’ to be given in cash or kind

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    LOCAL government units can distribute cash or food packages to their constituents once they receive the financial assistance approved by President Duterte for low-income households affected by the week-long enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the “NCR Plus” bubble.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President has given local executives the discretion to decide how they will give the government assistance to affected families in the National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.

    The President approved the financial assistance during his Monday night meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

    The Department of Budget and Management yesterday said it has released to the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) the special allotment release order and corresponding notices of cash allocation for the P22.92 billion in financial assistance.

    It will be the BTr that will release the financial assistance to local government units (LGUs) through their authorized government servicing bank accounts.

    Broken down, the allocation is as follows: NCR, P11.17 billion; Bulacan, P2.97 billion; Cavite, P3.44 billion; Laguna, P2.72 billion; and Rizal, P2.61 billion.

    The financial assistance is intended to assist 80 percent of the population of NCR Plus who belong to low-income households.

    Affected households are entitled to receive P1,000 per person but not to exceed P4,000 per family, either in cash or in kind based on the most efficient and effective mechanism to be identified by their respective LGUs, the DBM said.

    The National Economic and Development Authority said an estimated 22.915 million individuals are expected to benefit from financial assistance.

    The DBM said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will assist the LGUs in the implementation of financial assistance program.

    “Consistent with the President’s directive, beneficiaries of earlier Social Amelioration Programs of the DSWD shall be prioritized as beneficiaries of this financial assistance and the complete list of beneficiaries shall be posted in conspicuous places in the LGU and submitted to the DBM, the Commission on Audit, and other agencies as required under existing laws, rules and regulations,” the DBM said.

    Roque said 11.2 million individuals from NCR will get the assistance, 3 million in Bulacan, 3.4 million in Cavite, 2.7 million in Laguna, and 2.6 million in Rizal.

    He said LGUs can include as beneficiaries those who were not able to get cash aid from the first or second tranche of the special amelioration program as some LGUs experienced confusion in the list of beneficiaries.

    HOUSE TO HOUSE

    Interior Undersecretary for barangay affairs Martin Diño said the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is eyeing a house-to-house distribution of the cash or food assistance to poor families to prevent people from going out of their homes to get the government assistance.

    Diño said the same strategy was implemented when the DILG and DSWD distributed food packs when most parts of the country were placed under ECQ last year.

    Diño said the assistance can be delivered by barangay officials in a matter of two days “dahil may sariling mga tauhan ang mga barangay up to street level (because barangays have people up to the street level).”

    Diño said the DILG will not hesitate to impose sanctions against barangay officials who will be found guilty of committing irregularities in the distribution of the government assistance, citing the 89 barangay officials who were suspended last year after they were found to have corrupted the financial assistance program.

    DILG undersecretary and concurrent spokesman Jonathan Malaya said areas marred by irregularities during the SAP distribution last year are considered “areas of special concern” in the distribution of the new assistance.

    “We’re going to monitor them to avoid a repeat of the delayed distribution of SAP to their constituents,” he said. – With Angela Celis and Victor Reyes