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R1.2bn paid to 3 million unemployed South Africans in Covid-19 relief grant

13 July 2020 - 19:28 By ANDISIWE MAKINANA
Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu briefed journalists on Monday about her department's progress.
Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu briefed journalists on Monday about her department's progress.
Image: Trevor Samson

More than R1.2bn has been paid to over 3 million unemployed South Africans who qualify for the special Covid-19 social relief of distress grant.

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu said 7.5 million applications for the R350 grants were received, of which 4.4 million were approved.

“In line with our commitment that we will pay success applications from May, I can confirm that 3,429,808 of the approved applications were paid as at July 12,” she said on Monday.

These payments are all for applicants who applied in May, she said. Approximately another 1 million people will receive the payment for the June application.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in April that the government would be making a special six-month relief grant of R350 to unemployed South Africans. He said the special grant would be capped at R350 per month for six months, starting in May until October, and paid to individuals who are unemployed and do not receive any other form of social grant or Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) payment.

Briefing journalists on Monday — a day after Ramaphosa announced the extension of the lockdown to August 15 — Zulu said 2.2 million applications were found to be from people who were active on various government databases, for example beneficiaries of the UIF or the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

The minister said when she first saw the number of applications that had been rejected by the system, she instructed the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) to probe the matter and ensure that they did not exclude qualifying applicants.

Zulu acknowledged the frustrations with delays in the payment of the grant. She said this was because the system is dependent on verification of applicants information by other stakeholders to reduce the margin of error and paying ineligible applicants.

Given the limited resources available, we had to ensure the money reaches only those who qualify for this support,” she said.

She said Sassa would reassess all applications on a monthly basis to ensure that where circumstances have changed and income is received from any other source, the grant would not continue to be paid.

The reassessment of all applications has already commenced and the applicants were being reassessed against SOCPEN (the government's computerised grant administration system), UIF, NSFAS and Persal [the personnel and salary system] in preparation for batch release of June payments from this week.

Zulu said the initial delays in the slow processing the special Covid-19 grant had been largely due to a number of reasons including systems development, adding that the system used for the R350 grant was custom-developed for the grant.

The need for multiple data verification sources, and slow response to requests to provide banking details by successful applicants, had also held also contributed to the delays.

Zulu said a high number of applicants failed the bank account verification process, largely due to errors in the capturing of banking information and some applicants attempting to use other people’s bank accounts.

About 123,000 applicants failed the verification process, which is facilitated through the National Treasury before the crediting of accounts.

In this regard, she said Sassa has requested the Post Bank to open accounts for the clients to enable payment.

Sassa has also over the past two weeks undertaken an internal reconsideration of previously declined applications due to UIF, after having received an updated database from the department of labour and employment.

As a result, she said the number of declined applications as a result of the ID having been found on the UIF database has declined significantly and about 900,000 validated applications were found to potentially qualify for payment from May 2020.

Zulu said to address further exclusion errors, Sassa was implementing a recourse mechanism for applicants who had been declined and wished to review the decision.

Applicants can direct their appeals for review to covid19srdappeals@sassa.gov.za