May 2020 2nd Edition

Jobless to receive distress funding

Written by More Matshediso

COVID-19 relief funds have been made available for unemployed people and payments should be made from mid-May.

South African citizens, permanent residents and refugees who have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) will benefit from the Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant. 

The grant was initially announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in April when he talked about the socio-economic measures that government would introduce to assist citizens in need during the various levels of the national lockdown. 

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu later provided more details, explaining that R350 per month will be paid to qualifying applicants from May until October 2020.  Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu says an amount of R350 will be paid to qualifying applicants from May until October.

“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 channel, which is administered in accordance with the provisions as set in the Social Assistance Act, 2004. In terms of Regulation 9 (6), social relief may be provided to South African citizens, permanent residents and refugees who have been affected by a disaster. 

This framework is currently administered through the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) – however with limitations,” the Minister explained.  

She added that the new grant requires a rather more complex approach, as the beneficiaries are neither on the SASSA database nor other government grant support programmes. It was therefore necessary to introduce new systems and new qualification criteria and to amend some regulations.

“We are still finalising additional access channels, including SMS, self-help desks and further online application processes. We will give information on these soon,” the Minister says.

Volunteers will be trained and equipped to assist people who do not have access to technology. “We have already received commitments from the National Youth Development Agency, National Development Agency and Community Development Workers in some of the provinces to assist,” she added.

Furthermore, the minister says provincial branches of SASSA will further unpack the grant in consultation with provincial structures and civil society organisation. The department will publicise additional details on how the grant will be implemented. 

She says notification of the outcome of an application for the Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant will be provided in the same manner in which the application was made. 

Payments will be deposited into applicants’ bank accounts or made through cash send measures through banks. 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 backpay,” the minister says.

She says it is important for the applicant to note that by virtue of application, all applicants grant consent to SASSA to verify their residency, sources of income and/or social security benefits with government departments and financial institutions. All identity documents and permits will be cross checked against other data sources. 

“False applications could give rise to possible prosecution,” she says. 

“The system will go live immediately after the regulations are published and we envisage to start making payments by 15 May 2020,” she says.

Minister Zulu says those who have applied during the trial run will be contacted to provide further information.   

Qualifying criteria for the special R350 grant

Applicants must:

  • be registered on the Home Affairs system, 
  • be above the age of 18,
  • be unemployed,
  • not be receiving any income,
  • not be receiving any social grant,
  • not be receiving any unemployment insurance benefit,
  • not qualify to receive unemployment insurance benefits,
  • not be receiving a stipend from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, and
  • not resident in a government-funded or subsidised institution.

Applicants will need to provide the following compulsory information for the processing of their applications: 

  • Identity number/Home Affairs permit,
  • Name, initials and surname as captured on the identity document,
  • Gender and disability,
  • Banking details - bank name and account number, 
  • Contact details - cellphone number, and  
  • Proof of residential address. 

Applications may be lodged electronically by sending a WhatsApp message to 0600 123 456 and selecting SASSA or emailing

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