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R350 SASSA Social Relief of Distress complications

ITWeb writer Simnikiwe Mzekandaba penned an op-ed about ‘Electronic channels open for govt’s R350 Social Relief grant'. This follow-up explores the challenges faced by applicants.

Johannesburg, 21 May 2020
Read time 4min 40sec
Source: Pixabay No Attribution Required.
Source: Pixabay No Attribution Required.

The South African Social Security Agency, aka SASSA, has been overwhelmed with applications, creating a backlog for the social grants for COVID-19 relief. Recently, a story surfaced in AllAfrica detailing the difficulties experienced in a township near Cape Town, where scores of applicants slept on the pavement outside, waiting to speak to SASSA representatives to claim a government grant. Many of the pension payments to residents abruptly stopped, creating all sorts of problems for people in desperate need of financial assistance.

Mothers and fathers have been applying for grants for their children, some of which have been approved, others remain largely unpaid. Customer service agents are falling short of the mark, as government lockdown restrictions (level four) are creating difficulties for citizens across the board. SASSA is entrusted with the provision of multiple grants, with the beginning of the week (Mondays and Tuesdays) dedicated to Old Age Grants, Child Support Grants issued on Wednesdays, and Fridays dedicated to Disability Grants. Funds are disbursed via bank transfers, e-vouchers or mobile transfers.

Government pulls funding from SASSA Grants for Children in SA

Business Insider SA reported in late April 2020 that not all children will get the R2 800 extra in grant payments, given that the government had changed the rules and regulations in this regard. After carefully considering budgetary constraints, the R2 800 coronavirus payment will not be made, as originally intended. Many of the services being offered by government agencies have been hamstrung by overwhelmed office workers, improperly functioning communication channels, and shut down operations.

This has left myriad indigent South Africans desperately wanting. With economic activity grinding to a halt, everyday folks are left with precious few options with regards to earning a living. The JSE reflects the sharp decrease in supply and demand, spurred by a government-imposed lockdown. The domino effect is being felt in the trading and investment arena too. This once-thriving arena has been characterised by a dramatic downturn in activity, but many innovative online broker companies are streamlining operations to facilitate widespread access to trading in the financial markets. This has left the door open to international trading in currencies, commodities, indices and stocks.

Global uncertainty prevails

The state of affairs in South Africa and globally is precariously balanced. A recent report by NASDAQ.com found 82% of people worry that they won't financially make it until the economy recovers. Despite the $1 200 stimulus checks being sent out to Americans, CARES ACT loans, and Federal unemployment insurance of $600 supplementing state-issued unemployment assistance, problems persist. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that developed countries like the US are staring down the barrel, despite the financial assistance that is being offered to applicants.

In South Africa, there has been a lot of uncertainty regarding precisely how much government assistance will be meted out. President Cyril Ramaphosa stated on 21 April that beneficiaries would receive additional payments, of R300 + R500 in additional payments, as child support. The R350 per month payment, valid for six months, became effective in April 2020, only for unemployed individuals who are not currently receiving other forms of government assistance. The assistance will run through October 2020.

South Africa allocates 1% of GDP towards coronavirus relief package

The president stated that R50 billion will be allocated towards these grant payments – 10% of the total budget allocation for coronavirus relief. This figure comprises 1% of South Africa's GDP. The current grant levels in South Africa amount to R1 880 for war veterans and anyone over the age of 75 years old, R1 860 for people with disabilities and older people, and R440 for child support grants. The R350 payments are available for a period of six months, totalling R2 100 by the end of the year.

Other grants currently available in South Africa include disability/old age grants valued at R1 500, available in monthly instalments of R250 through the end of the year. The government-imposed lockdown has been particularly harsh on South Africans, what with limited hours available for exercising, restrictions on the types of products and services that are available for purchase (tobacco and alcohol are strictly forbidden), and extremely limited social interactions among friends, family members or colleagues. In terms of Social Relief of Distress with the coronavirus assistance programme, applicants must meet with certain requirements to qualify, notably:

  • Unemployed
  • 18+ years of age
  • Full ID verification, including name/surname, gender/disability, banking information, contact info, residential address.
  • Zero government assistance (no social grants, no stipend, no unemployment insurance)

In terms of actual assistance provided through the Social Relief of Distress initiative, individuals qualify for food parcels or food vouchers. Limited assistance is currently available through the South African government, in the form of cash. Usually, government assistance is for a short duration, such as three months, with the potential to extend it for an additional three months. In South Africa, applicants needn't worry about incorrectly filed applications as first-time users since the application will be processed instantly and the first month's food parcel/cash, or voucher will be given. The service is free to all eligible South Africans.

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