COVID-hit workers still can’t claim ECC benefits
MANILA, Philippines — Workers who contracted COVID-19 have still been unable to claim sickness benefits from the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC) for months now.
Federation of Free Workers (FFW) president Sonny Matula said many COVID-stricken workers who filed claims in the early months of the pandemic last year had not been given the benefits they were entitled to.
The FFW cited the case of a company where more than 300 workers contracted the coronavirus disease in March, but none of their claims were approved by the ECC.
Many other employees who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 and who filed claims before the ECC have yet to receive compensation, said Matula.
He said he knew of an employee whose medical bills reached more than half a million pesos, but was unable to claim benefits from the ECC.
“There are cases where, even if it is obvious that they got COVID in the workplace, their claims were turned down by the ECC because they were told there are no more funds,” Matula said.
The ECC provides a mere cash assistance of P10,000 to COVID-stricken workers upon showing proof that they got sick due to their work.
ECC executive director Stella Zipagan Banawis said the government agency ran out of funds for COVID-19 claims because its approved budget for cash assistance in 2020 was “for the usual number of applications and did not include work-related COVID-19.”
“We suspended the application for EC (employees’ compensation) cash assistance applied at our offices because of lack of funds but continued to process all applications received and still releasing checks till now,” Banawis said.
She said the ECC could accept applications again this year, adding that workers who contracted COVID-19 had three years to file their claims.
The FFW said workers who filed COVID claims last year had yet to receive their benefits, so those who would file their claims this year would likely wait for even longer.
Matula urged the ECC to declare COVID-19 as an occupational disease so workers will no longer be burdened to present various documents when filing for sickness benefits.
“If there is a presumption that it is work-related, then they will be given benefits automatically,” he said.
Banawis, however, said a worker still needs to prove that he contracted COVID-19 because of work in order to claim compensation.
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