The payment of the R350 social distress relief grant to the unemployed is a top priority for the Department of Social Development, but an official says the six-month relief period may be inadequate.
The unprecedented R500 billion social and economic support package to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday, includes a special social relief of distress grant of R350 per month which will be available for the next six months to those who are unemployed and not receiving any other form of grant or UIF payment.
Addressing a virtual joint meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development and the Standing Committee on Health and Social Services on Thursday, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu described it as one of the department’s top priorities.
“We need to deal with this thing as quickly as we can because I can guarantee you, we are going to be under pressure as people are hungry,” Zulu said.
The department’s acting director-general, Mzolisi Toni, said it was still working on the procedure on how to distribute the grant, adding it might be on Friday.
The chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, Mondli Gungubele, said: “I’m not sure how the leadership is dealing with that question.”
He questioned how the department would make sure the R350 reached desperate people.
The department’s presentation contained the following criteria:
- Those who did not receive a grant due to grant suspension or temporary disability grant.
- Children who turned 18 after the lockdown.
- Grant beneficiaries experiencing challenges due to faulty cards, lost cards, failed bank verification and fraud.
- Those who qualify for a grant but have not applied due to the lockdown.
- Those aged between 18 and 59, excluding those with other incomes like grants or UIF, pensions or receive any form of income, including pensions and National Student Financial Aid Scheme benefits.
The deputy director-general for social security, Brenda Sibeko, said poverty would rise due to the pandemic, so the department’s clients would grow exponentially.
Basic income grant
She added it “recognises that six months is not adequate” for this grant, but it would allow people to “ease back into the economy”.
Sibeko added a discussion should be undertaken about a basic income grant.
The committees requested Sassa offices should be opened during the lockdown to assist the public to have a contact point to access social grants and social relief measures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The committees have urged the department to ensure its hotline was functional and accessible to the public.
Gungubele emphasised the importance of monitoring, saying the department should “suffocate all conditions conducive to corruption”.