By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – The progressive bloc in the House of Representatives seeks to provide assistance to students during times crises.
Last March 28, Friday, the Makabayan bloc filed the bill titled “Emergency Student Aid and Relief Law,” which when passed would provide a one-time P10,000 ($209) cash aid to students in times of national emergencies or crises.
The bill seeks to institutionalize the easing of students’ financial burden during national emergencies across all education levels and to financially assist students both in public and private schools, especially those who are experiencing economic hardship by defraying certain portions of the education costs.
It also aims to allocate funds for additional costs that may be incurred by students when setting up alternative learning during a national emergency.
“The high drop-out rates and surge in mental health concerns among students while government agencies are implementing distance learning modes are reaching alarming levels,” the bill’s explanatory note read.
“Students are experiencing difficulties as to how they can continue to fund their education because their parents are unemployed, underemployed, or receiving meager wages,” it continued.
Earlier this week, student groups raised anew the dire situation of students under the education department’s blended learning system over what appears to be the absence of concrete plans for them to gradually and safely return to face-to-face classes.
Apart from the $209 subsidy, the bill also allows students to take advantage of at least P1,000 ($20) monthly financial assistance for education-related expenses of gadget subsidy, and another P5,000 ($104) subsidy for online and modular learning expenses for five months, but to be given as a single tranche.
The proposed law hopes to allocate P271 billion ($5.7 billion), to be appropriated to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
But does the government has this money? Proponents of the bill said yes.
The bill stipulates that the government may be able to fund this by tapping unprogrammed funds and savings from any government agencies under the executive department, as provided by the General Appropriations Act of 2021, from the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and the Bayanihan Recover as One Act, and from the unused appropriation for debt servicing, to name a few.
“While the country is in an economic crisis, public funds must be used primarily for basic social services, including education,” the explanatory note read.