The Social Security System (SSS) has relaxed its eligibility requirements to enable more members, especially minimum wage and low-income workers in Metro Manila, to borrow enrollment funds for college, vocational or technical courses under the Educational Assistance Loan Program (EALP) or Educ-Assist.

SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio de Quiros, Jr. said the pension fund raised its P10,000 limit on monthly income of eligible members to P12,000 in light of changes in minimum wage and cost of living allowance in the National Capital Region (NCR).

“The minimum basic pay will now amount to over P10,000 a month in NCR due to scheduled wage increases in 2012. We revised our Educ-Assist guidelines accordingly so that minimum wage earners and low-income workers in NCR and other regions continue to be eligible for educational loans,” he said.

With the new guidelines, members with a monthly income of P12,000 and below can now apply under the EALP, which provides maximum loan releases of P15,000 for college and P7,500 for voc-tech courses every semester or trimester.

The regional wage board recently granted a two-step P30 pay increase for private sector workers in NCR, which resulted to a daily minimum wage of P446 in the region effective June 3 this year. The minimum basic pay will be further raised to P456 per day starting on November 1. About half of SSS membership is based in NCR.

De Quiros urged members to maintain an active SSS membership to ensure continued access to privileges such as educational loans, which are offered to those with at least 36 contributions and three monthly premiums within the last 12 months prior to filing of application.

“Apart from having a safety net in the form of benefits to compensate for lost income, active members can also look forward to educational loans that will support the beneficiaries until they graduate from college or from their vocational or technical course,” he said.

The SSS launched the P7-billion educational loan facility in May 2012 as part of national government’s campaign to promote economic productivity and help workers defray education costs to upgrade their knowledge and skills for current and future employment.

Borrowers can use EALP loans for tuition and miscellaneous fees of one beneficiary, who can be the SSS member, legal spouse, child or sibling of unmarried members. Application forms are available at any SSS branch and are downloadable from the SSS website (www.sss.gov.ph).