Government is implementing a range of measures to provide relief to the poor and support the recovery of the economy.
Beneficiaries of these measures include people affected by the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) lockdown restrictions and the unrest experienced in some parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng recently.
“We are taking decisive action now to secure the livelihoods of millions of people who have been threatened by both the pandemic and the unrest.
“We are announcing a range of measures to support the recovery of the economy and provide relief to the poor and those who are vulnerable as a result of the measures that we had to impose to deal with COVID-19,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Social Relief of Distress Grant
The President announced that government is reinstating the Social Relief of Distress Grant, to provide a monthly payment of R350 until the end of March 2022, to assist those who are unable to support themselves.
Government is expanding the number of people who are eligible for this grant by allowing unemployed caregivers, who currently receive a Child Support Grant, to apply.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni recently said the grant will go a long way in helping people.
“This will cost about R27 billion which we have to find in the system. Looking after our own is not just a cost, but it is an investment that we should see going forward,” he added.
President Ramaphosa said the Department of Social Development is also providing food relief.
“Government is contributing R400 million to the Humanitarian Crisis Relief Fund, established by the Solidarity Fund, to assist with the immediate needs of affected communities,” he added.
Help for businesses
The President said the unrest and looting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal have left communities devastated and impacted negatively on livelihoods.
Government's most immediate action is to ensure that those businesses that were damaged or looted are able to rebuild and reopen as quickly as possible.
Businesses that are insured will be covered by the South African Special Risk Insurance Association (SASRIA).
“SASRIA has committed to expedite the payment of all valid claims, and is working together with private insurers to ensure that assessments are completed without delay.
“Government will ensure that SASRIA is able to honour all of its obligations and will provide whatever support is necessary in this regard,” he said.
Minister Mboweni said the financial backing of SASRIA would amount to R3.9 billion and this figure could be revised in the future.
However, some businesses that were affected by the looting may not have been insured, including many small- and medium-sized businesses, whether formal or informal.
The President said government will provide support for these businesses.
“Many of these businesses have lost everything and will not be able to rebuild on their own. We will not abandon them in their time of need.”
Government has set aside R2.3 billion to support small businesses that are not covered by SASRIA.
“We will also be reprioritising funding for small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) affected by the pandemic through a once-off business survival funding mechanism.
“We are also working with large business to determine their contribution to the support of SMMEs, job creation and eradication of hunger and poverty,” added the President.
Support for workers
Government has also extended the COVID-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) to those sectors that were affected by the recent Adjusted Alert Level 4 restrictions.
The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has set aside R5.3 billion for the extension of the COVID-19 TERS, which will mainly cover those who have lost their jobs due to the lockdowns.
“Applications for this period are open and the UIF will facilitate payments as quickly as possible to support workers who have not received an income.
“Most importantly, the UIF will provide income support to all those employees who have lost jobs as a result of the recent unrest. This will ensure that jobs are protected and that workers can continue to earn an income as those businesses take time to rebuild.”
The President said while the TERS has provided crucial support for many sectors that have been unable to operate, there is a need to provide even further relief to help businesses to recover.
“We are therefore expanding the Employment Tax Incentive for a period of four months to include any employee earning below R6 500 and to increase the incentive amount by up to R750 per month,” he added.
This will encourage employers to hire and retain employees, especially those in the retail and hospitality sectors which have been worst affected.
He added that government is working closely with its social partners on further measures to address poverty, accelerate the implementation of reforms, drive inclusive growth and create jobs.”