The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) approved Wednesday the release of P11.5 billion to the Department of Health (DOH) to cover the One COVID-19 Allowance/Health Emergency Allowance (OCA/HEA) claims of over 1.6 million eligible public and private health care and non-healthcare workers.
In a statement, Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman said the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) covers unfunded OCA/HEA claims of health care and non-health care workers from January to June this year.
“Our health care workers deserve all the support and assistance from their government. They’ve been risking their lives to save and protect our people amidst this still prevailing pandemic. This is the least we can do for them,” she said.
This developed as the seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate in the National Capital Region (NCR) continued to rise to 19 percent on Wednesday, the OCTA Research Group monitoring the pandemic said.
OCTA fellow Dr. Guido David reported that NCR’s positivity rate increased from 18.7 percent on September 26 and is just a bit lower than the 19.1 percent recorded on October 2.
The positivity rate refers to the percentage of people who were found positive for COVID-19 among the total number of individuals tested.
Meanwhile, a party-list lawmaker on Wednesday welcomed the DBM’s previous announcement of releasing P1.04 billion to the DoH to cover allowances for government and private-sector health workers who worked during the pandemic.
“With gratitude, we welcome the decision of the Department of Budget and Management in allotting additional funds for our frontliners,” said Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Ray Florence Reyes.
“We hope that more unused available funds are found and sourced to fill in the P73-billion total of overdue allowances our workers deserve to receive,” he added.
The DBM’s latest release of funds covers the unfunded portion of some 2,613,331 approved OCA/HEA claims by the DOH as of September 5, 2022, with a total funding requirement of P18.7 billion.
Of the amount, P7.92 billion was released last February 14, 2022, to cover the payment of 995,671 OCA/HEA claims.
Previously, the DBM said the SARO for P1.04 billion was approved Monday for the special risk allowance (SRA) of eligible frontliners between Sept. 15, 2020 and June 30, 2021.
It said the amount covers unpaid SRA claims of 55,211 qualified health workers, who are eligible to receive P5,000 for each month they were on duty during the period.
“A lot more is needed, but our call is beginning to bear fruit. Until the healthcare system is given due attention, we will neither stand idly by nor keep mum,” Reyes said.
“We will continue the legislative push to increase the allocation of our health sector for concerned departments to act. Hopefully, this decision will be extended and be translated to better funding in the General Appropriations Act of 2023,” he added.
In early September, Reyes called on fellow lawmakers for the return of P76 billion worth of arrears for health care workers that the DBM slashed from the DOH’s budget.
Only P19 billion was reflected in the National Expenditure Program for Fiscal Year 2023, which the Health Department stated will only last for three months of back wages.
From December 2020 to June 2021, DBM released a total of P11.856 billion in funding for the SRA of health workers, Reyes noted.