Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation regarding the economic measures that the country would be taking post-lockdown to assist citizens struggling at this time. One of the initiatives included a R350 COVID-19 grant as part of the Social Relief of Distress grants that are aimed at the unemployed in the country.

At the time applications for this process were unknown,but, earlier today, social development minister Lindiwe Zulu outlined who qualifies for the COVID-19 grant, what criteria the applicants must meet, as well as the electronic channels that must be used in order to apply.

“The Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant will be implemented in terms of the existing avenue provided for by the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) channel, which is administered in accordance with the provisions as set in the Social Assistance Act, 2004,” explained the Minister.

Zulu also noted that this new grant would be administered by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), but there were some limitations.

“The new special COVID-19 SRD grant requires a rather more complex approach, as the beneficiaries are not on the SASSA database or other government grant support programmes. It was therefore necessary to introduce new systems and new qualification criteria, and amend some regulations,” the Minister noted.

“The system will go live immediately when the regulations are published and we envisage to start making payments by the 15th of May 2020. Those who have applied during the trial run will be contacted to provide further information,” she added.

With SASSA having a rather spotty history in recent years when it comes to handling grants, it remains to be seen whether the new COVID-19-focused initiative will get to those who need it in a timely manner.

For now, this is what the department of social development has outlined.

“The grant (R350 per month) will be available to South African Citizens, Permanent Residents or Refugees registered on the Home Affairs system; who are resident within the borders of the Republic of South Africa,” the department says.

Applicants are required to meet the following criteria in order to be eligible to apply:

  • Above the age of 18
  • Unemployed
  • Not receiving any income;
  • Not receiving any social grant
  • Not receiving any unemployment insurance benefit and does not qualify to receive unemployment insurance benefits;
  • Not receiving a stipend from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme; and
  • Not a resident in a government funded or subsidised institution.

Those wanting to apply will need to provide the following documentation/information:

  • Identity Number/Department of Home permit
  • Name and Surname as captured in the ID (and initials)
  • Gender and Disability
  • Banking details – Bank Name and Account Number
  • Contact details – Cellphone number
  • Proof of Residential Address.

There are currently two methods for beginning the application process – WhatsApp or email.

Applicants will be required to either send a WhatsApp message to 0600 123 456 and select SASSA, or send an email to [email protected]. From there, the outcome of the application will be confirmed via the same channel it was made through, but the department has not detailed an expected turnaround time.

“We are still finalising additional access channels and including SMS, self-help desks and an online application process. We will give information on these soon,” the minister points out

“For people with no access to technology, volunteers will be trained to assist applicants who cannot use technology and will be provided with gadgets to capture details on behalf of applicants,” the Minister added.

Hopefully then, the actual application process is made as smooth as possible for people in the country who are truly struggling.

In terms of payments, the department says it will be done through bank accounts of the applicants, or via cash send measures at financial institutions.

“The benefit/grant will be paid from the date of approval up to the end of October 2020 provided the qualifying criteria listed continues to be met. So if applicants apply in June, their payments will be from June and there will be no back pay,” the Minister concluded.

It should lastly be noted that through the application process, SASSA will be granted authority to verify the references and information that is provided. As such false applications could result in potential prosecution.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]