SSS benefits for retrenched workers sought

AMID the mounting job losses due to the new coronavirus pandemic, a Visayan lawmaker on Thursday urged Congress to boost the current unemployment insurance cash payments being provided by the Social Security System (SSS) to involuntarily separated workers in the private sector.

“Retrenched workers should ideally receive cash benefits for a period  of up to six months, because studies have shown that they need the same number of months on average to find a new job,” said Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas.

When Congress first tackled unemployment insurance, the original submission was for the SSS to give cash assistance over a six-month period, Gullas pointed out.

“However, the proposal was finally watered down to just two months of cash support,” Gullas said.

Gullas also called for an extra one-time “child support insurance” cash aid to be extended by the SSS to every laid off worker with at least one dependent child under 21 years old.

At present, workers covered by the SSS and involuntarily separated from their jobs may claim benefits in the form of monthly cash payments equivalent to 50 percent of the average monthly salary credit (AMSC) for a maximum of two months only.

Thus, if the worker’s AMSC is P20,000, he or she may claim a cash handout of P10,000 multiplied by two, or the sum of P20,000, paid only once.

As proposed by Gullas, the same P20,000 one-time cash benefit would increase to P60,000, plus an additional P10,000 if the claimant has at least one qualified dependent child.

Under Section 14-B of Republic Act 11199, or the Social Security Act of 2018, an employee who is involuntarily separated can only claim unemployment benefits once every three years.

Involuntarily separated refers to those who lose their jobs due to retrenchment or downsizing, closure or cessation of operation of a business, among other factors.

To avail of the benefit, the discharged employee must have paid at least 36 monthly contributions to the SSS, 12 months of which should be within the 18-month period immediately preceding the month of involuntary separation.

The Department of Finance earlier said the SSS is ready to provide up to P1.2 billion in cash payments to some 60,000 workers dismissed by tourism-related establishments hit by the COVID-19 outbreak.