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Senator proposes realignment of unused stimulus funds to help micro enterprises, individuals

A SENATOR urged the government to convert unused stimulus funds to assist micro businesses and individual workers heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic but do not qualify for aid or loans under current guidelines.

In a statement, Senator Maria Imelda Josefa R. Marcos said the “sluggish disbursement” of stimulus funds can be addressed by converting the budget for the loan programs of state banks and pension funds into “more direct forms of assistance” like wage subsidies and job programs.

“For example, despite 65% of carinderias (eateries) and small neighborhood shops having temporarily or permanently closed, this target group cannot access these loans, being mere barangay-level operations that are not qualified according to the requirements of the Small Business Corporation and the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry),” she said.

Ms. Marcos also said that even micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that are qualified to borrow will be hesitant to take out a loan amid the pandemic. “Until there is a clearer policy on imposing community quarantines, they will lack the confidence of being able to pay back,” she said.

Ms. Marcos noted that only P3.3 billion of the P10 billion allotted for the DTI’s COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises under Bayanihan II has been lent out. The P6 billion allotted for those affected in the tourism sector may also remain unutilized until the vaccine rollout expands and tourist confidence is boosted, she said.

The funds that were provided by the LANDBANK of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines, and Philguarantee Corporation are “similarly slow-moving,” according to the senator.

The amounts should be formed into cash assistance distributed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Labor and Employment, or through the Social Security System, “plus other direct subsidies for digitizing, retrofitting, retooling, and retraining MSMEs,” she said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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