Around one in five subscribers to the Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) dipped into their savings between April 2020 and September 2021, taking out `28,288 crore to tide over the difficult times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Data compiled by the retirement fund body exclusively for its board members revealed that 1.21 crore members made Covid-19 withdrawals between the first quarter of 2020-21 and the second quarter of 2021-22.
According to the EPFO dashboard, there are around 6.69 crore members who paid their EPF contributions during the last one year. The government had in March last year amended the provident fund scheme to allow for Covid-19 non-refundable advance of up to 75% of a member’s total provident fund contributions or a sum of their three months wages, whichever was less.
The highest number of claims, over 30 lakh, were in the July-September quarter of the current fiscal followed by Q1FY21 and Q1FY22. However, the maximum amount disbursed was in the first quarter of the last fiscal followed by the second quarter of the current fiscal.
The provision for special withdrawal to meet the financial need of members during pandemic was introduced in March 2020, under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY).
In May this year, EPFO allowed its members to avail a second non-refundable Covid-19 advance to support its subscribers during the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. The Covid-19 advance has been a great help to the EPF members during the pandemic, especially for those having monthly wages of less than `15,000, said an official issued in May this year.
“Faster servicing of claims was the key for members as for many of them even basic survival became a challenge during the job-insecure context of Covid. EPFO rose to the occasion and Covid-19 advances were settled on an average of within 72 hours with a 50% increase in speed of settlement compared to the past,” EPFO said.
To avail the Covid-19 advance, members can directly file their claims on the EPFO website or through an oft-used government app, UMANG, which is essentially a single platform for availing multiple public services.