House of Representatives

House OKs bill expanding benefits for solo parents

Mara Cepeda
The proposed bill grants solo parents a 10% discount on basic necessities for their children, such as clothing, diapers, and milk

The House of Representatives approved a bill that would grant discounts and other benefits to solo parents.

Voting 208-0-0, legislators passed House Bill (HB) No. 8097 on 3rd and final reading on Tuesday, January 19. 

HB 8097 amends provisions of Republic Act No. 8972 or the Solo Parents Welfare Act of 2000 to provide more assistance to solo parents in the country.

If passed into law, the bill would grant “qualified” solo parents or those earning less than P250,000 annually with a 10% discount and exemption from value-added tax on children’s clothing, baby’s milk and supplements, diapers, children’s medicines and vaccines, medical and dental services, and basic school supplies.

The bill also entitles solo parents to at least 7 days of paid parental leave if they have rendered service to their place of work for at least 6 months.

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Government facilities would be required to prioritize solo parents and their children in administering medical and dental services. 

The Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority would be mandated to provide scholarship programs for qualified solo parents and one of their children.

The Department of Labor and Employment, meanwhile, would be tasked to establish child-minding centers and ensure there are breastfeeding areas in all workplaces. 

HB 8097 would also direct the concerned government agencies to prioritize solo parents and children when providing livelihood, training, and poverty alleviation programs.

Establishments that provide solo parents with discounts on basic necessities would be incentivized with tax deductions from their gross sales or gross receipts. 

Agusan del Norte 1st District Representative Lawrence Fortun, principal author of the measure, said the bill is Congress’ response to the clamor of solo parents to amend the 20-year-old law “that has proven to be of little help to them.”

“Current realities have shown that our solo parents belong to a distinct sector that has received negligible attention. I earnestly hope that the passage of HB 8097 in the House of Representatives will not only heighten public support to this sector but also fast-track the enactment of a law that will safeguard and improve the welfare of our solo parents and their children,” Fortun said in a statement.

He then urged senators to “immediately” pass their version of the bill.

The Senate version of the measure providing expanded benefits for solo parents has already hurdled the committee level and is in the middle of plenary debates.

However, the Senate bill proposes a higher tax discount for solo parents at 20%.

This means that once senators pass the measure, a bicameral conference committee would have to be convened so representatives and senators could thresh out the conflicting provisions in their respective bills.

Both houses of Congress would first have to ratify the reconciled version of the solo parents welfare bill before it could be brought to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.