In a press statement released on 6 May 2021, SASSA notes a delay in Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant payments as the Agency awaits approval to utilize funds from the previous financial year. Besides the time lag for approval, when outstanding payments are eventually made, it may be ‘split over days and weeks’ and is unlikely to be paid in a lump sum. Not only was this grant terminated on 30 April 2021, but now back payments have been temporarily suspended with dire consequences for beneficiaries.
This is the second time in recent weeks that SASSA apologises for payment delays. But Covid-19 SRD grant beneficiaries often suffered the undignified experience of late payments, a perennial problem even prior to the government’s new financial year. SASSA must intervene decisively and communicate clearly when lump sum payments can be expected. In the absence of this, millions of beneficiaries remain uncertain and continue to gather in large crowds at SAPO branches to make enquiries in the desperate hope for payment.
For about 6,9 million people, the meagre R350 Covid-19 SRD grant was the only means to put some food on the table. The grant’s termination as well as the suspension of outstanding payments, aggravates the current humanitarian crisis. A recent Ipsos study revealed that about 46% of South African adults and children often went hungry during the pandemic as they did not have enough money to buy food. The escalating hunger crisis is a violation of the constitutional right to food. The Black Sash urges government departments and agencies to work together to ensure prompt payment to beneficiaries.
Government must reinstate the Covid-19 SRD grant. A Covid-19 third wave is becoming a reality since infections are increasing. Mass vaccinations are yet to begin. Food prices and the cost of living continues to skyrocket and over 11 million people are unemployed, using the expanded definition. As a nation, we cannot allow almost half of the country to face hunger and possible starvation. The Black Sash calls for the prompt payment and extension of the Covid-19 SRD grant until a Basic Income Grant is implemented.
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