‘Ayuda’ goes digital: DSWD prepares to distribute electronic cash aid to beneficiaries

July 2, 2020 - 4:49 PM
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A man counts a wad of Philippine Peso bills he received from a relative working abroad at a money remittance center in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines September 19, 2018. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Beneficiaries of the national government’s COVID-19 cash aid can now receive their subsidies through accredited financial service providers.

The government recently partnered with Filipino financial technology firm Starpay that allows beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development to use and withdraw their cash aid in accredited banks and institutions.

The partnership comes amid the government’s directive to implement safety precautions and to ensure that funds go directly to the millions of families affected by the COVID-19.

Lamberto Scarella, president of Starpay Corporation, said that the move was also made to help Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in pushing for “financial inclusion” for all.

“We’ve seen the state of the beneficiaries and want to show them that the support that they receive can be done without the need to fall in line for long periods of time and without the need to go out of their homes,” Scarella said.

“Through the digital distribution of the government subsidy, Starpay envisions to be the first Filipino financial technology firm to spearhead a robust digital financial system that will include the unbanked and underbanked segment of the population,” he added.

The fintech has an application that SAP beneficiaries can use to access services such as e-load and bills payment.

This is available for free download on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

The firm also partnered with conduits where users can conveniently withdraw their funds.

Aside from Starpay, the DSWD also tapped financial service providers GCash, PayMaya, RCBC, Robinsons Bank and Union Bank to help conduct the digital disbursement of the second tranche of SAP.

The BSP helped in the process of identifying financial service providers that are compliant with the required qualification for the engagement.

“This is where technology can also be very instrumental in helping the government identify priorities, opportunities and problem areas of the beneficiaries. The kind of information obtained from the data would guide the government in designing more responsive solutions and policies that would further alleviate poverty,” Scarella said.

The DSWD reminded the beneficiaries that “similar to the regular transaction for digital accounts, there will be a minimum cash our fee of not more than P50 to be deducted from their subsidies, if they will opt to withdraw from the partner outlets of the financial service providers.

When the enhanced community quarantine was imposed over several parts of the country in March, President Rodrigo Duterte then assigned the DSWD to provide financial aid to target beneficiaries that include 18 million low-income families and other qualified households affected by COVID-19.

The cash aid will be coursed through local government units.

The government allocated around P205 billion for this program.

As of June 28, a data released by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said there were 1.35 million people who received the second tranche of the cash subsidy.

Reports said that of the P100 billion for the second tranche, only P6.79 have been disbursed.

The second tranche of SAP is only given to qualified residents in areas that are under general community quarantine.

The officials earlier said that the government planned on finishing the distribution of COVID-19 stipend last week. —Rosette Adel