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EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE FOR RURAL POOR COMING SOON – HOUSE

The House committee on appropriations approved a substitute bill proposing a “Rural Employment Assistance Program Act” after amending the funding provision of the measure.

The appropriations provision contained in Section 7 of the unnumbered bill provides: “The Secretary of Social Welfare and Development shall include in the DSWD’s programs the implementation of the Act, the initial funding of which shall be charged against the current year’s appropriations of the DSWD. Thereafter, the amount necessary for its continued implementation shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).”

The bill substituted HB 530 authored by AKO Party-list Reps. Rodel Batocabe, Alfredo Garbin, Jr. and Christopher Co and HB 5188 by Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano.

The bill provides that it is the declared policy of the State to provide employment assistance to a qualified head of family or single adult member of poor households in rural areas identified by the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) of the DSWD.

In this regard, the DSWD shall implement the Rural Employment Assistance Program, in coordination with local government units (LGUs). The program shall provide temporary employment to every qualified head of family or single adult member of poor families in rural areas who volunteer or volunteers to do unskilled manual work for a minimum of 45 days but not more than 90 days in every calendar year.

Rural areas are referred in the bill as those barangays which have population size of less than 2,500. Barangays which do not have an establishment with 25 or more employees, or five or more establishments with a minimum of 10 employees, or five or more facilities within the two kilometer radius from the barangay hall, are also classified as rural areas, the bill provides.

The bill refers to the poor as individuals and families whose income fall below the poverty threshold as defined by the government and/ or cannot afford in a sustained manner to provide their minimum basic needs of food, health, education, housing and other essential amenities of life or those who have been identified as poor by the NHTS-PR.

The DWSD, in close coordination with the LGUs and other concerned agencies, shall conduct an assessment of all poor individuals and families in rural areas who signified interest to do unskilled labor to determine eligibility in availing of the Program.

The works and activities for this purpose are classified as activities that will mobilize eligible poor individuals and families to finish a project in a given period.

Every qualified head of family or single adult member of a poor family in the rural areas, who are qualified under the Rural Employment Assistance Program, shall be entitled to receive for each day of work an employment assistance equal to the applicable minimum wage set by the tripartite Wages and Productivity Board in the region. They shall also be entitled to the payment of mandatory social security dues such as Philhealth, Pag-ibig and Social Security System (SSS).

The DSWD, in coordination with the LGUs and other concerned government agencies, shall take the lead in the implementation of the Rural Employment Assistance Program along with project identification, implementation and monitoring of the works and activities.

There shall be created an Employment Assistance and Skills Training Fund (EASTF) to be administered by the DSWD. The EASTF shall exclusively be for the benefit of the qualified head of family or single adult member of poor family in the rural areas who availed of the Rural Employment Assistance Program.

The EASTF shall be used to pay the wages and skills training programs of qualified head or heads of families or single adult member or members of the poor families in rural areas who availed of the program.

Authors of the bill are Batocabe, Garbin, Co, Alejano, Reps. Deogracias Ramos, Ma. Lourdes Aggabao, Allen Jesse Mangaoang, Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba, Fernando Gonzales and Orestes Salon.

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