The Senate Committee on Finance is set to present in plenary the committee report on the bill that will ensure the benefits intended for public and private health workers under the Bayanihan 1 and 2 laws will continue to be provided even after their expiry.
Senate Bill 2371 filed by Senators Richard Gordon and Senator Sonny Angara was favorably endorsed by the Department of Health, which sought for the passage of the measure in order to address any question about the legality of the continued grant of benefits to the health workers.
As the chairman of the Committee on Finance and sponsor of Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), Angara said the law was clear that the benefits for health workers such as the monthly Special Risk Allowance (SRA) should continue for as long as the the state of national public health emergency declared by President Duterte is in place.
This position was supported by Senator Gordon, who during the Blue Ribbon Committee hearings on the various issues hounding the DOH, agreed to initiate the filing of the bill after being informed that the SRA was no longer being provided to the health workers because of the expiry of Bayanihan 2 last June 30, 2021.
“This bill is an offshoot of the Senate’s investigation into the receipt or non-receipt of benefits by our health workers as contained in the Bayanihan laws. And with the view of the Executive Branch that these Bayanihan 2 health benefits have lapsed already with the expiration of the law, we were constrained to file this bill,” Angara said.
“We acknowledge the tremendous sacrifices being made by our health workers during this pandemic and the various risks they are exposed to in their line of work—both the doctors and nurses directly catering to COVID patients and those performing other tasks at the hospitals and other health facilities. They should continue to receive their benefits for as long as this national health emergency is in place,” Angara added.
The bill provides the following benefits be granted to public and private health workers:
(a) COVID-19 special risk allowance and active hazard duty pay for every month served: Provided, That the special risk allowance and active hazard duty pay shall be in addition to existing benefits being received by health workers under existing laws;
(b) Provision of life insurance, accommodation, transportation, and meals, regardless of the community quarantine status; and
(c) Provision of compensation to those who have contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty, with the following amounts, upon submission of required documents to support claims:
(1) In case of death of the covered individual, P1,000,000 shall be provided to the heirs of the covered individuals; In case of sickness, for a severe or critical case, P100,000 shall be provided to the covered individuals; and In case of sickness, for a mild or moderate case, P15,000 shall be provided to the covered individuals: Provided, that the compensation provided herein shall be given to the beneficiaries not later than three months after the date of confinement or death.
The grant of these benefits shall have retroactive application from July 1, 2021 and shall remain in full force and effect during the state of national public health emergency as declared by the President.
The bill also provides that benefits received by the covered workers during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic shall be exempt from income tax.
To ensure that there will be no confusion as to who will be covered by the grant of benefits, the bill defines health workers as “medical, allied medical, and other necessary personnel assigned in hospitals, healthcare facilities, laboratories, medical or quarantine facilities, or vaccination sites and those administering medical assistance.”
It also includes non-medical workers and outsourced personnel hired under institutional contract of service or job order basis such as the janitors, utility workers, security staff, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, drivers, and cooks who are similarly exposed to COVID-19.
Funding for the payment of the benefits will be sourced from the available appropriations of the DOH.
The various health care workers and local government organizations have also thrown their support to the measure as manifested during the hearing conducted today.
Angara said he is looking at sponsoring the committee report next week or before Congress adjourns its sessions on September 30.