Seven million people have already applied for the R350-a-month Social Relief of Distress grant since applications opened last Saturday, according to Brenda Sibeko, deputy director-general of the Department of Social Development.
In terms of new regulations under the Social Assistance Act, beneficiaries must re-apply for the grant. The new regulations disqualify those earning R350 or more a month, a number revised down from R625.
R624 a month, the food poverty line, is considered the minimum necessary to meet food requirements.
The lowering of the limit was widely criticised by civil society groups which warned that many people who needed the grant would be excluded. In a joint statement, #PayTheGrants, Black Sash, Institute for Economic Justice and Social Policy Initiative, among other organisations, warned that “hundreds of thousands” of beneficiaries might be disqualified from assistance they had relied on to survive for the last two years.
But at a media briefing on Thursday, Sibeko said the department’s current budget only caters for 10.5 million people per month. According to Sibeko, more than 18 million people live below the food poverty line of R625 a month and 13 million have no income at all.
“If we set the threshold at ‘no income’ we would already be over our budget which only caters for 10.5-million people per month.”
But she said that the department would monitor the threshold and could revise it based on uptake and available budget.
Approved applicants do not need to re-apply for the grant each month, but data checks will be made each month to find out if the applicant still qualifies.
Applicants will also be required to confirm every three months that they are still in need of the grant.
“We encourage everyone who needs the grant to apply within the remaining few days of the month,” said Sibeko.
This was first published on GroundUp here.