The Social Development Department stated that it is worried about the low number of successful applications for the Special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, particularly because there are many applicants who are in desperate need of the grant but are denied.
According to the Department of Social Development, the low number of successful applications followed the implementation of the new regulations, which included checking applicants’ bank accounts against the income threshold of R350.
In a statement released by the department, it stated that “out of 11.4 million applicants for the month of June, only 5.2 million beneficiaries were approved. This represents less than 50% of the applications.”
In line with the undertaking that the Department would review the threshold should the numbers indicate this, Minister Lindiwe Zulu has published draft regulations to amend some of the qualification criteria for public comments from 1 March 2022 to 31 March 2023.
The key proposed amendments relate to the application of the bank verification, the requirement for applicants to confirm their need for the SRD grant every three months, and the maximum allowable income.
“In this regard, the Department is proposing to increase the maximum allowable income from R350 to the food poverty line of R624, meaning that SASSA will decline any applicant who receives more than R624 into their bank account for each relevant month,” said the department.
According to the department, the bank account assessment will be conducted every month and if their income is below R624 in a particular month, then the applicant will qualify for the grant. However, beneficiaries are reminded that the value of the SRD grant will remain at R350 from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.
The second amendment aims to remove the requirement for applicants to indicate if they require the grant every three months because applications are in any case assessed every month. The third amendment seeks to remove the clause that places the bank verification process as the main criteria for deciding if the applicant qualifies for the grant.
As reported by the department, these amendments will ensure that the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) applies all the different database checks, which include the bank account income checks before determining if the application is approved or declined.
Those applying for the grant are reminded to submit an appeal for each month for which they were declined. However, appeals are now directly lodged with the Appeals Tribunal and not Sassa.
In the statement, the department requested that all stakeholders submit comments on the draft regulations to ensure that the most vulnerable people receive the SRD grant. The department also extended its sincere apologies for the long delay in assessing the April and May applications.
In July, the department stated that it would be finalising the outstanding payments for those approved for June and completing the approvals and payments for the April applications.