Less than 50 percent of applicants for the R350 social of relief of distress (SRD) grant for the month of June were approved, the Department of Social Development said on Thursday (14 July).
This follows the implementation of tighter eligibility rules, including a new means test of just R350 as opposed to the previous R595. This means that anyone who received an income of more than R350 in their bank accounts in a month was not eligible for the grant.
The government implemented the new regulations under the Social Assistance Act following the end of the COVID-19 national state of disaster in April, drawing criticism from civil society groups.
Low approval rate for R350 SRD grant
“Following the implementation of the new regulations, including the checking of applicants’ bank accounts against the income threshold of R350, the Department is concerned at the low numbers of approvals,” the Department said.
“Out of 11.4 million applicants for the month of June, only 5.2 million beneficiaries were approved. This represents less than 50 percent of the applications.”
Earlier this month, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu called for comments on proposed amendments to the regulations. She indicated her intention to revise the income threshold from R350 to the current food poverty line, which is R624 per person per month.
If approved, this would mean that anyone who receives income of less than R624 per month would qualify for the SRD grant. The proposal, which was championed by civil society, is expected to increase the approval rate.
“The value of the grant itself remains R350 per person per month for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023 and the second amendment seeks to remove the requirement for applicants to indicate if they require the grant after every three months,” the Department explained.
“Since the applications are in any case assessed every month, the Department is proposing to do away with this requirement. In addition, the third amendment is aimed at removing the clause that places the bank verification process as the main criteria for determining eligibility for the grant.
“This is to ensure that SASSA applies all the different database checks, including the bank account income checks before making the decision to approve or decline the application.”
The Department apologised to applicants for the long delay in assessing April and May applications. “We are doing everything in our power to fast track the assessments, especially the bank verification processes that are currently required by the regulations,” it added.
“During the month of July, we will be finalising the outstanding payments for those who were approved for June, and also complete the approvals and payments for the April applications.”
Of the 5.2 million approved applicants for June, 3.7 million have been paid so far.