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One in five withdrew funds from EPF accounts since Covid onset

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epfo-pti-big-1In 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 (Photo: PTI)

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.

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Trump takes attempt to block release of his January 6 documents to court Tuesday

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The arguments are likely to be an uphill battle for the former President. The Biden administration and the House are aligned against him in wanting transparency about communications in the West Wing as Trump sought to overturn the 2020 election result and his supporters raided the Capitol. Trump lost his first round in court in the case, more quickly and resoundingly than his losses when he tried to claim broad protections from investigations while he was President.

Yet by raising major, unsettled questions about the power of former presidents to control information from their time in office, the case appears to be on a path to the Supreme Court.

Trump has argued he should be able to assert executive privilege over records such as call logs and the handwritten notes of his top advisers. The Biden administration has declined to keep January 6-related White House documents confidential.

The House said it needs the more than 700 pages of disputed Trump White House records, from close advisers including then-chief of staff Mark Meadows and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, so it can learn enough about Trump’s efforts for Congress to make laws that could protect future elections. The Biden administration has endorsed the House learning as much as it can about Trump and the attempted coup.

Judge Tanya Chutkan of the DC District Court previously smacked down all of Trump’s arguments in the case. “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” she wrote in her opinion earlier this month.

Presidential privilege “exists for the benefit of the Republic, not any individual,” Chutkan also wrote.

Now the DC Circuit Court of Appeals could rule quickly. The panel of appellate judges — Patricia Millett, Robert Wilkins and Ketanji Brown Jackson — are all appointed by Democrats and moved fast to schedule the case for argument, bringing it before them only three weeks after Chutkan ruled. Jackson is already known to oppose Trump’s broad executive privilege claims, having written years ago that “presidents are not kings” when Trump tried to block a congressional subpoena of his former White House counsel, Don McGahn.

So far the panel has shown an inkling of doubt. Last week, they told Trump, the House and the Biden administration to be prepared to address questions of whether the court can even decide a case like this — in addition to the arguments the parties are already prepared to make.

Former DOJ official could be second person to face contempt charges for defying January 6 committee

Wilkins also has been a strong voice on recent politically charged cases. He wrote a strong dissent against the dismissal of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea in 2020 and authored the opinion that set the standard for the jailing of Capitol riot defendants before their trials.

Four collections of records from the Trump White House that have been reviewed by the National Archives are poised to go to the House committee if Trump ultimately loses the appeal. Witnesses subpoenaed by the House, including Meadows himself, have used the ongoing court case as a shield to skirt testifying.

Currently, the appeals court has put a temporary hold on the National Archives releasing the records Trump contests, pending its issuance of another order.

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To assess how far the economy has recovered from the piling rubble of COVID-19’s devastation, it will be more prudent to compare the current year’s metrics with that of 2019-20, the immediate pre-COVID-19 year..

GDP noses ahead of pre-COVID-19 levels, but don’t pop the champagne yet


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