Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has paid over Rs 14,000 crore towards settlement of 56.79 lakh COVID-19 non-refundable advance claims, last year.
Following the virus outbreak in 2020, the Central government had permitted EPFO subscribers to withdraw not more than three months’ basic salary and dearness allowance (DA) from the EPF account to meet their emergency needs during the lockdown. Till December 31, about Rs 14,310 crore have been paid towards such an advance.
More than one-fifth of the amount disbursed by EPFO in 2020 was towards COVID-19 advance claims. This is not really surprising because the pandemic-induced economic slowdown led to many people losing jobs or facing salary cuts. Many were forced to migrate to their hometowns.
Those belonging to the economically weaker sections were provided financial support by the Government via the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), which was rolled out towards the end of March 2020.
Around the same time, the Government also allowed withdrawal from the EPF Scheme, an amount equal to the basic wages and DA for three months or up to 75 per cent of the amount in the member’s EPF account, whichever is less. Over four lakh COVID advance claims were settled by private EPF trusts that paid about Rs 3,983 crore to the members, offering cash in hand to fulfil essential needs during the lockdown.