Solon pushes bigger student cash aid

House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro has vowed to push for higher education budget and student financial assistance in the 2023 General Appropriations Act after tens of thousands of applicants for cash aid trooped to the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s central and regional offices on Saturday.

“It is not surprising that on the first Saturday of the distribution of meager aid for students, our compatriots flocked to it in their preparation for the first day of school on Monday,” Castro said Sunday.

“The DSWD also should have asked for the help of the LGU and barangays so that people would not have to crowd central and regional offices for the cash aid,” the congresswoman added.

She said her partylist is now seeking urgent hearing and passage of House Joint Resolution 4 providing for a P32 billion supplementary budget for the maintenance and other operating expenses of schools, House Bills 251 or the Safe School Reopening Bill and HB 252 or Student Aid Bill.

Meanwhile, DSWD spokesperson Assistant Secretary Romel Lopez apologized to the student cash aid claimants and assured them that the agency is already recalibrating how they would carry out the calm and orderly distribution of the money next time.

Lopez explained that they needed to cut the line at 7 a.m. on Saturday due to the large crowd at the various offices of the DSWD.

“People were becoming unruly, there were pushing and physical distancing was not observed so Secretary Erwin decided to cut the line,” Lopez told Daily Tribune in a phone interview.

As to the higher budget for student cash aid, Lopez said they welcomed Gabriela Partylist’s proposal to allocate an additional P2 billion to increase the educational assistance from P4,000 to P10,000.

However, he said that they must first determine if the agency has the fund to do so.

Lopez said the secretary is already contemplating of increasing the current P500 million educational assistance to cover more beneficiaries.

The said cash assistance to indigent students is provided under DSWD’s Assistance for Individuals in Crisis Situation program to help them buy school supplies before classes resume. It will be distributed to eligible recipients from 20 August to 24 September.

Lopez said aid claimants who failed to get the cash assistance due to the cut-off period could claim their P4,000 in the coming days.

He said they distributed a stub to the claimants after getting their documents to ensure they would be accommodated by the DSWD next week or by schedule.

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