State-run Social Security System (SSS) has released P33.4 billion in calamity loans and unemployment insurance benefits (UIB) last year in support of government efforts to mitigate the economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic on wage earners.

In a report submitted to Finance Secretary and Social Security Commission Chairman Carlos G. Dominguez III, the pension fund said they released P31.69 billion in calamity loans for 2.12 million member-borrowers, and P1.71 billion in UIB for 136,000 claimants were disbursed in 2020.

Of the total calamity loans, SSS released P30.47 billion in salary loans for 1.28 million members, and extended pension loans totaling P3.4 billion to 74,799 borrowers last year.

The SSS said it saw a marked increase in the number of borrowers under its Calamity Loan Assistance Program after President Duterte declared a state of calamity nationwide in March as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

UIB claims rose nearly 10 times from 15,000 claimants availing of P178 million in benefits in 2019 to 136,000 beneficiaries claiming a combined P1.71 billion in 2020.

Pension loan releases in 2020 increased by 34.6 percent from P2.52 billion in 2019 due to enhanced guidelines issued by the SSS, which increased the maximum loanable amount under this program from P32,000 to P200,000 starting in October 2019.

“From a robust securities placement in 2019, our investible funds for 2020 were shifted to member loans, particularly for calamity loans,” the SSS said in the report.

Loan releases to members increased by more than half from P40.59 billion in 2019 to P62.35 billion in 2020, but member loan collections from January to November 2020 dropped by 17.6 percent to P32.44 billion amid the implemented moratoriums and the pandemic-induced recession.

The SSS generated a contribution-benefit surplus of P62 billion in 2019, while preliminary data indicate a surplus of P11.92 billion in 2020 despite the pandemic, the SSS said in its report. 

Preliminary data also showed that SSS contributions reached P204.75 billion in 2020, down by 7.1 percent from the previous year’s collection of P220.38 billion and by 17 percent from its target of P246.83 billion. 

The drop was the result of 1.5 million members unable to pay their contributions because of COVID-related job losses. 

The SSS paid benefits amounting to P192.84 billion last year based on preliminary data. This was 2 percent below the P196.76 billion in benefit payments reported in 2019.

Operating expenses of the pension fund declined by 17.7 percent to P8.18 billion in 2020 from P9.93 billion in 2019.

Source: Manila Bulletin (