24 January 2022 – Secretary Jeremiah B. Belgica, Director General of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), welcomed the Department of Budget and Management’s move to release P1.19 billion to pay the special risk allowance (SRA) of frontline health workers in the fight against COVID-19.

The latest fund release, that was released to the Department of Health (DOH) on 20 January 2022, will cover the unpaid SRA of 63,812 health workers in both public and private institutions who have been exposed to COVID-19 patients in 2021.

The fund will cover unpaid SRA from 20 December 2020 to 30 June 2021.

The allotment was charged against the contingent fund in the P4.51-trillion national budget, whose validity was extended by Congress until the end of the year.

ARTA has been coordinating with health worker groups, interested private groups, and national government agencies after seeing informal reports about delays in the distribution of the SRA.

The COVID-19 SRA is a benefit granted by law to health workers that is equivalent to 25 percent of their monthly salary. It is separate from their hazard pay.

“I have always said that we, in the government, must show our appreciation to the heroic frontline health workers who have made countless sacrifices for us during this pandemic,” ARTA Sec. Belgica said.

“We can do this by ensuring that our health workers are adequately supported and given their dues during this critical time. Delays or deductions in their SRA would be a huge disservice to them,” he added.

The ARTA chief also reiterated his recommendations to streamline and hasten the distribution of the SRA.

Administrative Order 36, Series of 2021, states that the grant of the Covid-19 SRA will be prorated based on the number of days that both public and private health workers physically went to work. This issuance, as well as the Department of Health (DoH) and the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) Joint Circular 1, Series of 2021, states that the monthly SRA of health workers should not exceed P5,000.

ARTA Sec. Belgica recommended that the DOH consider paying health workers a fixed amount of P5,000 per month instead of having to compute the amount based on the actual duty days, since the assessments and computations may have hampered the distribution of the financial benefit.

Additionally, Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act provides that the SRA shall be given to all public and private health workers directly catering to or in contact with COVID-19 patients for every month that they are serving during the state of national emergency as declared by the President.

Since everyone and those who work in health institutions are equally at risk of contracting COVID-19, ARTA Sec. Belgica also proposed to do away with this classification and apply the P5,000 benefit across the board.

This, after it was found that having to compute based on days served in the hospital could cause an inequitable designation of value for work since many are giving more than what can be measured in hours and days.