Retirement fund body EPFO has settled 56.79 lakh COVID-19 non-refundable advance claims, and has disbursed Rs 14,310 crore till December 31, 2020, reflecting the adverse impact of the pandemic on the formal sector workforce.
When the coronavirus-induced lockdown was imposed in March, the central government had allowed over 6 crore subscribers of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation’s (EPFO) to withdraw an amount not exceeding their three months basic pay and dearness allowance from their EPF account, to support them during the nationwide lockdown.
“The EPFO has settled 56.79 lakh COVID-19 withdrawal claims and disbursed Rs 14,310 crore to subscribers during the pandemic till December 31, 2020,” a source said.
According to the source, the EPFO has settled 197.91 lakh claims related to final settlement, death, insurance, advance claims and disbursed Rs 73,288 crore till December 31, 2020.
The amount of disbursals under COVID-19 claims to subscribers is a sizable amount of over one fifth of the total disbursement during the period by the EPFO.
According to the source, the quantum of the disbursement amount under the COVID-19 claims reflects the stress among the formal sector workers due to the adverse impact of the pandemic, which resulted in job loss, pay cuts and forced migration etc.
The Centre introduced the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) on March 26, to provide aid to the economically weaker sections in view of the pandemic.
The government announced a provision for withdrawal from the EPF Scheme, providing for non-refundable withdrawal to the extent of basic wages and DA for three months or up to 75 per cent of the amount standing to member’s credit in the EPF account, whichever is less.
Further, private EPF trusts also settled 4.19 lakh COVID-19 claims and disbursed Rs 3,983 crore to the members to provide liquidity to meet the exigencies due to pandemic, the source said.
Private EPF trusts manage the fund as well as EPF accounts of their members themselves. These firms are exempted from filing EPF returns to the EPFO. These are regulated by the EPFO.
During the pandemic, the EPFO came out with innovative measures like auto-settlement mode and multi-location claim settlement to ensure settlement of COVID-19 claims within three days despite restrictions on full deployment of staff.