Throughout the month of April there was a huge avalanche of applications to furlough staff (the 'expedientes de regulación temporal de empleo', otherwise known as ERTE), and staff at the State Employment Service (SEPE) worked weekends and holidays to process the highest possible number of applications. The result is notable: nearly 90,000 people who were laid off in Malaga province have begun to receive their payments, according to sources consulted by SUR.
Unfortunately, even that amount of effort was not sufficient. The latest figures from the Junta de Andalucía show that 122,725 people in Malaga province, including the Costa del Sol, were put on an ERTE by the end of April, so more than 30,000 have still not received any money from the State. This newspaper has learned of several cases where workers have received no income since the end of March, the last time they were paid by their employers.
There are various reasons for these delays, according to SEPE. Some applications were lodged in March, as soon as the state of alarm was decreed, but their processing has been halted or delayed because of an error or the lack of necessary documentation being supplied.
Some applications have also needed to be checked by the labour authorities because an anomaly was detected, and in some cases, workers have appealed against the ERTE. All these circumstances have led to delays in processing. In some cases the hold-up is due to the the sheer volume of work and technology required since the avalanche of applications began.
The delay in paying some workers caused conflict between the Comisiones Obreras union, the regional government's Employment Office and SEPE a few days ago. The union blamed the Junta for the delay, saying it should have taken on more staff to process the ERTE applications back in March, when the first wave occurred at the time the state of alarm came into force. The Employment office pointed out that it is SEPE that registers and makes the payments, as it does not have the power to do so.
It is also clear that, especially at the end of March, both administrations were overwhelmed by the sheer scale of applications, so processing and payments slowed down.
Advance payments from banks
Now, two months after being laid off, thousands of local workers have still received no unemployment pay. Monday was a key date: this type of benefit is paid on the 10th of the month and, as that was a Sunday, many people checked their bank accounts on Monday to see if the money had arrived. Normally, those who had not received it would have had to wait another month, until 10 June in this case, but given the dramatic situation many families are in, with no income for two months, SEPE has now set up a way for them to be paid as quickly as possible: it has agreed with all the banks that payment can be available in advance once the application has been officially authorised.
Sources at the government's representative office in Malaga say that from now on SEPE will send the payments to the banks as soon as they are authorised, either on a daily basis or every few days, so those expecting them will receive them as soon as possible during this month. This will be done automatically.
Also, given that the number of new ERTE applications has now reduced substantially, SEPE has been able to assign some of its staff to deal with the applications which contain an error or anomaly.