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R350 grant application volumes spike to five million

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A week after opening up channels for the R350 grant applications, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) says it has already clocked in over five million complete applications.

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu announced last week that SASSA will open applications for government’s special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant on 6 August, stressing that all applications will once again be “done electronically/digitally”.

The application process, however, has not been without its fair share of issues.

When applications opened, SASSA reported a systems slowdown as a result of an influx in applications, which left some applicants frustrated with the process. The agency noted that excessive traffic slowed down its Web site and WhatsApp application line for the special SRD COVID-19 grant.

To deal with the pressure on its system, SASSA announced two new online channels for applications.

SASSA spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi says there were 5 317 528 complete applications, as at 11 August 2021.

Letsatsi further notes on Tuesday (10 August) at 23:35, the agency had over 5 000 people on its Web site. “This is a reflection of the extent to which vulnerable individuals can go to ensure that their applications go through.”

He adds that the agency has seen the most applications through the online SRD site.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll, president Cyril Ramaphosa last month said government will reinstate the special COVID-19 grant for a period from August until 31 March 2022.

Government initially introduced the grant last year as a way to cushion South Africa’s poorest and distressed citizens from the financial burden brought on by the pandemic. In terms of the grant, unemployed persons receive R350 per month.

Despite applicants complaining on social media about difficulties in accessing the online application channels, SASSA insists its system has stabilised, and all application channels are up and running.

“We added two new online channels for application in order to ease the pressure on our system, namely GovChat Web site and Facebook Messenger.”

Furthermore, the agency says it is relying on other government entities’ databases for verification controls and to prevent fraudulent incidents.

“SASSA validates the information that applicants provide against other databases, such as Home Affairs, SARS, UIF, NSFAS, Correctional Services, PERSAL, Government Employees Pension Fund, social grants, etc in order to ensure that only eligible people are approved and paid.

“In addition, banks will form part of the validation process. SASSA will be monitoring the system closely and together with law enforcement agencies, and will respond decisively if anyone is red-flagged by our system for trying to act fraudulently.”

In terms of how many applications have been approved so far, Letsatsi says SASSA is busy with the validation process at this stage. “We will pay the first batch on the last week of August.”

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