STATEMENT to the MEDIA by FNPF CEO, Mr. Jaoji Koroi COVID-19 Scheme Phase 3

Good afternoon members of the media.

This afternoon, I will take you through the next phase of our COVID-19 Withdrawal Scheme, which is specifically for members who are working on reduced hours or reduced wage rate.

Phase 2

Let me begin by providing a brief update on Phase 2, which is currently in progress.

  • Phase 2 opened on 9 June and targeted members who were unemployed from 1 October 2019 or on leave without pay during this pandemic period.
  • To date, we have assisted about 25,046 members with a total payout of $13.7 million, of which a total of $7.2 million was subsidised by Government.
  • This amount excludes $1.4 million, which was paid earlier to 6,255 members who had applied in Phase 1 and had a General Account balance of zero to $35.
  • We have now completed three payments – the third payout was paid last week on Tuesday 21 July, which means that two more payments are due for Phase 2.

Phase 3

  • As announced by the Honourable Minister for Economy in the National Budget address, Phase 3 will be rolled out soon to assist members who are still working, but are on reduced hours or reduced wage rates to enable them to access their FNPF savings for short-term financial help.
  • We understand that these members are still earning so Phase 3 is to help alleviate some of their financial burden or shortfalls

So there are two main categories under Phase 3:

  1. Reduced hours – members working less than normal hours in a week or fortnight. These members will be paid between $220 to $880 over five fortnights.
  2. Reduced rate – members whose wage rate were reduced but their working hours have not changed. These members will receive a lump sum payment of $550 or $1,100 depending on the percentage of reduction to their wages.
  • Now, the amount that each member can access will depend on his or her current working arrangement.
  • Therefore, the employer’s role is crucial once again as they will need to validate reduction in hours and reduction in wage rates.

Reduced Hours

  • For those on reduced hours, the payout will range from $220 to $880 over the 5 fortnights.
  • So for those members who are working four days a week instead of five days (which means they lose a day of work per week), they will be paid $22 for every day that they are not working in a week. So for two weeks, those who are working four days a week will get $44. Over five weeks, their total payout will be $220.
  • Those working three days instead of five days – which means that they are not working two days in a week – will receive $88 a fortnight or $440 over five fortnights.
  • Those who are working two days out of five days in a week, will receive $132 a fortnight or $660 over five fortnightly instalments.
  • Members working only one day out of five days a week, will receive $176 in a fortnight or a total of $880 over five fortnightly payments.

Reduced rate

  • For our members whose wage rate has been reduced, they will be eligible for a lump sum payout of $550 or $1,100.
  • If their wage rate has gone down by 50% or less, they will be eligible for a lump sum payout of $550.

Those members whose wage rate has reduced by more than 50%, they will receive a lump sum payment of $1,100.

The Fijian Government would also be topping up funds for those that have insufficient General Account balance.

Uploading of CS forms

  • A key qualifier for the reduced hours or reduced wage rate scheme is that employers MUST upload the Contribution Schedule form for July 2020 based on June 2020 wages.
  • Employers do not have to pay, but must at least have the CS form uploaded as this assists the Fund to verify the employment status of your employees.

Submission Mode

  • All applications for this phase will be submitted through the Employer portal because members are still working.
  • The employer will also be able to verify the member’s employment status.
  • Payment options will either be through bank account or M-PAISA. There are conditions to this as follows:
    • If the member applied in Phase 1 or 2, then the bank account they had nominated will be the default bank account option for this application
    • If that same account is now closed or invalid, then the member must opt for M-PAISA on the application form
    • However, if the member is applying for the first time, then they will need to provide their valid bank account details on the form
    • It is important that the member reads the form properly when filling it in.
  • Application forms will be available from 1 August and submissions through employers will be allowed from 10 August 2020.

Extension of Unemployment

  • For Phase 3, we will continue to receive new applications from members who are unemployed from 1 October 2019.
  • If you had previously applied for Unemployment, you can only reapply in Phase 3 provided you were not assisted in Phase 2.
  • Members that have insufficient General Account balance will also receive top up assistance from the Government.
  • Members will need to download and apply through the myFNPF app. The amount will remain as $1,100 and will be paid out in lump sum as per the Phase 3 payment timeline

First Home Buyers Programme

  • Regarding the Government announced First Home Buyers Programme, we would like to clarify that this programme will be facilitated by the Ministry of Housing in collaboration with lenders or banks.
  • Members who wish to access this grant will need to liaise directly with the Ministry and FNPF assistance will only be applied under our FNPF Housing Withdrawal Policy.
  • For members that had applied in 2019 for the First Home or Land Government/FNPF Purchase Programme, that scheme has ceased and will not be available anymore.

Unemployed – for more than 6 months

  • We have been inundated with requests from members who have been unemployed more than 6 months or longer, to access some of the relief scheme that has been provided by the Fund.
  • We are currently assessing how best to roll out this scheme, which will form part of Phase 4.
  • We will make further announcements on this in due course.
  • We seek member understanding as it is not easy to administer these schemes especially when they are running parallel to each other.
  • We need to carefully approach each phase and avoid unnecessary pressure on our members and staff and most of all, minimise confusion.
  • However, the Fund is mindful of the demand and situation on the ground with our members, and will act as most practical as possible to meet their demands in line with the capability of our internal resources.

Ongoing relief

  • COVID-19 is far from over and we expect these economic challenges to continue well into next year.
  • As announced during the National Budget, members and employers contributions will remain at 5% each or a total of 10% until December 31, 2021.
  • We encourage employers to take advantage of the tax incentive for any additional EMPLOYER contribution paid, if manageable. That is – to pay more than the mandatory 5% contribution and claim 150% tax deduction or pay
  • The Fund has also activated several measures to assist Employers through these tough times. These measures are more about getting employers to commit to their superannuation responsibilities through the provision of amnesty measures.
  • Overall, the Fund continues to monitor the situation to ensure we make prudent decisions pertaining to the management of members’ funds.
  • We continue to assure members that their funds are safe and to talk to us to get the correct facts instead of listening to all the chatter aimed at causing fear and uncertainty.

I would like to thank you once again for bearing with us.

It has been quite a journey and as we move into a new financial year and prepare for a new Phase 3 COVID-19 withdrawal scheme, I once again acknowledge the media’s support and role in conveying accurate information to our members.