STATEMENT to the MEDIA by Acting CEO Mr Viliame Vodonaivalu on the COVID-19 Withdrawal Extension

Good morning and thank you for your presence this morning.

It is indeed an honour to address you at this media conference in my capacity as Acting CEO of FNPF. It’s good to finally put faces to your by-lines, names and voices.

We have a couple of key announcements today.

The first, is to provide an update on the ongoing COVID-19 withdrawal assistance, particularly, for those members still unemployed and for those on reduced hours or wage rates.

The second, is on the new phase of COVID-19 relief assistance.

Unemployment Relief Payout

We will begin with the total payments made so far in regards to the COVID-19 phases being Phase 2, 3 and 4 followed by key information on the new rounds for these phases.

So far, FNPF has paid out $234.8 million to members for Phases 2, 3 and 4. 

Of this amount, the Government top up totalled $109.8 million while $125 million was paid out of members’ funds.

Payments for the active phases are as follows:

Phase 2 Round 4 is the continued relief for members who are still on leave without pay due to COVID-19 or were unemployed from October 2019.

Currently, 34,866 members continue to receive fortnightly instalments of $220 for this Phase – a total of $30.6m has been paid – $24.3m of this was paid by Government.

A final payment remains for Phase 2 Round 4 and this will be disbursed next week Tuesday – 16th March.

Phase 3 Round 3, which closed this week was for members still at work but on reduced hours or reduced wage rates;

19,229 members were assisted with $11.7m paid out and $5.8m was topped up by Government.

Phase 4, is for members who are unemployed from 1 January 2010 to 30th September 2019.

A total of 11, 083 members have been paid $7.9m. This phase was not topped up by Government because these members were unemployed well before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Extension of Relief Phases

Following Government’s confirmation, the COVID-19 withdrawal relief for Phases 2 and 3 have been extended to June.

Phase 3 Round 4 will open next week Monday 15th March 2021

Phase 2 Round 5 will open a week later on Monday 22nd March 2021

The Fund acknowledges Government’s critical role in the extension of the relief, given that a large number of members now have insufficient balance in their General Account.

Those members who have exhausted their General Account, will continue to receive the relief pay out which has been enabled through the subsidy or top ups provided by Government.

More than 39,000 members who are currently accessing Phases 2 and 3 have insufficient balance in their general account and we’re grateful that Government/ continues to assist these members during these challenging times.

Phase Two Round Five – non auto roll over

We also have a group of members who will need to re-apply as a contribution was received in their FNPF account in the past 3 months. These members will also receive an SMS notification from FNPF and will need to apply on the mobile app under Phase 2 Round 5.

Similarly, members who did not consent to continued assistance under Phase 2 of COVID-19 and are eligible to receive this assistance will need to re-apply.

Likewise, for members applying for the first time.

Phase 2 Round 5 will open on 22nd March 2021 with the first payment cycle scheduled for 6th April 2021.

Members who had opted for continual assistance for Phase 2 but would like to stop receiving the assistance need to contact the FNPF before 31st March 2021.

The Fund has also created an enquiry page on the FNPF website where members can check whether they have been automatically registered or not.

Phase Three Round Four

This phase is for those members who are employed but on reduced hours or wage rates.

All members under this round must reapply so that their employer can confirm that they are still on reduced pay or reduced wage rate.

The requirements and application process are unchanged.

Phase 3 Round 4 will open on 15th March, 2021 with the first payment on 30th March 2021.

Phase Four – closure

Phase 4 was for those members who have been unemployed since January 2010 to September 2019 and are still unemployed.

Phase 4 can only be accessed once.

When we opened Phase 4 in August 2020 11,000-plus members have since applied. This is well below the estimated number of members that qualified for this Phase.

Given the low number of applications still being received for this phase we will now close Phase 4 on March 31st, 2021.

Now to the new phase of COVID-19 Relief Assistance.

Voluntary Members Relief

While we have been providing relief to members whose employment have been affected, there’s a group of members who have been patiently waiting. These are our voluntary members.

We will roll out the COVID-19 relief for our Voluntary members from April 12th, 2021.

These members can apply for a minimum of $100 to a maximum of $1,100, from their General Account. They need to have a minimum of $135 in their General Account.

They need to be over 18 years old and must apply on the myFNPF app and ensure they provide valid bank account details or opt for MPAISA or Bill Pay.

Final Comments

To conclude, we wish to acknowledge the following:

We sincerely thank the Government for their continued commitment in ensuring that our members continue to receive fortnightly subsidy to sustain their livelihoods.

We also wish to thank Employers for their continued support and understanding in helping our members through the application process.

To our payment vendors, Vodafone Fiji and Post Fiji and the banks – vinaka vakalevu for your collaboration.

We also wish to acknowledge our members. Thank you for continuing to put your trust in the Fund.

The arrival of the first batch of vaccine is definitely a positive for our country and while there are concerted efforts at the national level to take the necessary actions to regain some of the economic ground that we’ve lost, the Fund will also do its part in our collective efforts to rebuild our beloved nation.

Thank you.