The Democratic Alliance (DA) has expressed concern that existing beneficiaries of the R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant will have to reapply for it.
In a statement on Monday (25 April), DA MP Bridget Masango criticised the government for delaying SRD payments during the transition from the Disaster Management Act to Social Assistance Act.
‘Consider delivery of existing grants’
“What is concerning… is that those who have previously applied and qualified for their SRD grant will have to reapply. This announcement comes close to three weeks after many were set to receive their grants for the month of April. Many need to travel great distances, spend little funds they do have on transport, to visit SASSA offices and wait for hours in long queues,” Masango said.
“Additionally, the burden that sits on SASSA to process all SRD grants is great and will only cause further delays in delivery. Considering that applicants whose grants have been wrongfully declined, many have been waiting for their appeal outcomes since August 2021.
“Such delays cannot occur in the new applications process of the SRD grants. SASSA must therefore consider the delivery of existing grants where beneficiaries have already been vetted and verified.”
Masango expressed regret that there are no provisions to ensure beneficiaries receive their grants whenever there are legal or administrative challenges. “The DA will not allow inefficiencies in government to worsen the vulnerabilities of already impoverished South Africans,” she added.
The Department of Social Development announced on Friday last week that reapplication is necessary because a new legislative framework and eligibility criteria are now in place.
“Given that the COVID-19 SRD will now be provided for under a new legislative framework, and that additional qualifying and assessment criteria will be added, those in need of assistance will have to apply for the COVID-19 SRD, or reapply if they were previously in receipt of this grant. Fortunately, the entire application system remains a purely digital process, thereby enabling quick access and turnaround times,” it said.
Reduced income eligibility threshold
However, civil society organisations claim the new regulations have reduced the income eligibility threshold from R624 (food poverty line) to R350 – meaning “people are now only eligible to receive the SRD grant if their income is below R350 per month.”
“That is shocking, inhumane, regressive and leaves millions of people living below the food poverty line ineligible for government assistance,” the Institute for Economic Justice, Black Sash, #PayTheGrants and Social Policy Initiative said in a joint statement on Monday.
“This also means that hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries who previously fell below the threshold and qualified, will now not qualify for the SRD grant under the reduced threshold. We believe that this retrogression of rights that have already been established and provided for will not sustain legal challenge.”
The groups urged the government to provide an urgent update on the status of SRD grants for April.