Over Rs 8,500 crore has been withdrawn by employees under the COVID-19 advances facility from the Employees’ Provident Funds Organisation (EPFO), taking the total withdrawals this fiscal to Rs 27,000-30,000 crore so far by nearly 80 lakh subscribers. The high number of these withdrawals has mostly been from low-income workers, mainly those earning below Rs 15,000 a month, a member of the EPFO’s Central Board of Trustees (CBT) said.
“On an average, nearly Rs 104 crore has been disbursed daily for the purpose of COVID-19 claims since the launch of the advance facility,” the person said, adding that the rest of the disbursals are averaging at the same rate for the already existing provisions for medical emergency or unemployment.
In the wake of the pandemic, the Centre had in March announced an online facility to allow withdrawal not exceeding the basic wages and dearness allowances for three months or up to 75 per cent of the amount standing to a member’s credit in the EPF account, whichever is less. The scheme allowing advance withdrawal was notified on March 27 and the online facility launched on March 29.
The existing withdrawal conditions allow subscribers to take non-refundable advance or withdraw money before retirement for specified purposes, such as a medical emergency, marriage, higher education or purchase of a house, etc. Also, subscribers who have been unemployed for more than a month can withdraw up to 75 per cent of their balance.
As per the last officially released data by EPFO on June 9, in April-May, 36.02 lakh claims were settled, disbursing Rs 11,540 crore in total. Of these, 15.54 lakh claims were settled under the COVID-19 advance facility, disbursing Rs 4,580 crore to the subscribers.
The EPFO had then said that over 74 per cent of the total claimants during the lockdown period were earning below Rs 15,000. The high income category, with wages above Rs 50,000, accounted for 2 per cent of the claimants, while around 24 per cent of the claims were made by members with wages between Rs 15,000-50,000. The 36.02 lakh claims settled in April-May this year was a 6.7 per cent rise from 33.75 lakh claims settled in April-May 2019.
Further, Rs 875.52 crore was disbursed by the exempted PF Trusts to 79,743 subscribers under this scheme in April, of which 222 private sector establishments disbursed Rs 338.23 crore to 54,641 employees, 76 public sector establishments disbursed Rs 524.75 crore to 24,178 employees and 23 cooperative sector establishments disbursed Rs 12.54 crore to 924 employees.
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