P370-billion stimulus package to cushion coronavirus impact pushed in House
MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker is pushing for a P370-billion stimulus package aimed to aid small and medium businesses reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo presented her proposed stimulus package, dubbed as the Economy Moving Forward as One Act, during the virtual technical working group meeting of the House Defeat COVID-19 committee on Tuesday, April 14.
Quimbo proposed to compensate payroll costs during the lockdown, offer capacity building programs like website development to improve business resilience, and provide zero-interest loans.
The goal is to help protect businesses and ensure that Filipinos remain employed even after the lifting of the Luzon lockdown on April 30. Other parts of the country are on lockdown as well. (READ: Economists to gov't: Spend P300 billion or more vs coronavirus)
The proposed P370 billion is broken down as follows:
- P110 billion for wage subsidies covering 25% to 75% of payroll costs during the lockdown
- P130 billion for interest-free loans for non-essential business and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs)
- P10 billion for loan guarantees
- P119 billion for grants to support activities to improve business resilience like training programs
- P1 billion for compensation for paid sick leaves for COVID-19 patients
“Ito ay upang siguraduhin na walang magsasarang negosyo, walang mawawalan ng trabaho, or mababawasan ng kita (This is to ensure that no businesses would shut down, no one would lose their job, or get less income),” the congresswoman said.
The proposed P370 billion is on top of the P275 billion – sourced from government agencies’ revenues from operations – that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is tapping for its COVID-19 response, including the emergency subsidy for 18 million poor households.
The government also plans to roll out a P51-billion subsidy program for middle class workers.
Quimbo, who was a Philippine Competition Commission commissioner and an economics professor before venturing into politics, estimated that some 6.5 million private workers in the tourism industry and more than 494,000 employees in the trade industry would be badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She also said MSMEs would have the “greatest difficulty coping with the shocks” due to the health crisis.
“We also need to plan for our future. The next time another COVID-19 strikes us, we should be better prepared. Ito po 'yung tinatawag na economic resilience (This is what we call economic resilience),” Quimbo said.
Duterte’s economic team has so far announced a P27.1-billion package to help frontliners fight the pandemic and provide economic relief to affected sectors.
Negative interest loans, improved ‘Build, Build, Build’
In the same House meeting, Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda proposed a P350-billion negative interest loan plan to help cushion the economic effects of COVID-19.
Under the proposed loan package, Salceda said loans at negative interest should be offered to workers in exchange for retention in the company. He proposed that companies allow employees to apply for a loan equal to 50% of the business’ direct labor cost, with the amount payable in 3 to 5 years.
Salceda also wants to create a credit mediation and refinancing service for MSMEs and the National Emergency Investment Corporation, which would bail out firms that would go bankrupt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He also said the “Build, Build, Build” program should be enhanced to allow the government to better implement the universal healthcare law, support creative industries, and build more public schools.
The fiscal stimulus packages drafted by Quimbo and Salceda will be consolidated in one bill in the coming days. – Rappler.com