With just days until the window for submitting applications for the Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) benefit for July and August closes – on August 15 – the system has yet to open for these applications.
According to Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) spokesperson Makhosonke Buthelezi, the funds will be released upon directives from Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi.
“[The] UIF will announce the opening of the system after the ministerial directives about the extension of the benefits have been published … We’re awaiting the gazetting of the new directives,” Buthelezi said.
Buthelezi maintains that the e-system has been tested and is ready for the processing of claims.
Urgent indication needed
Democratic Alliance shadow minister for employment and labour Michael Cardo called on Nxesi to urgently indicate when the millions of workers will be able to apply for the July benefit, as they are cash-strapped.
“He owes it to the anxious and desperate workers of South Africa who aren’t sure when their next paycheque will arrive,” Cardo said.
The UIF system and applications process has faced numerous challenges throughout the lockdown period.
Applications for May opened late, at midnight on May 26. Applications for June opened late, on June 24, and closed almost immediately because of security and data breech issues, with functionality only restored in the second weekend of July.
“Now we are almost halfway through August and nobody is any the wiser about when July applications will open,” said Cardo.
“We don’t know whether July applications will be considered separately from August applications, or whether the six-week bloc [to August 15] will be treated as a single pay period with a single application process.”
Where are the funds?
Cardo said what is even more concerning about the UIF debacle is that the funds allocated for April and May seem insufficient: “… payments for April and May seem to have dried up, and payments for June are coming through at a trickle.”
According to a survey by the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (Neasa), nearly 60% of employers across the country still haven’t received their June Ters money.
Of the 40% of employers who received payment for June, only 64% were paid in full.
Neasa claims that 28% of employers still haven’t received their May benefits and 12% of employers still haven’t received their April benefits.
“This is deeply concerning and both the UIF and Minister Nxesi need to provide direction and communicate accordingly as a matter of urgency,” Cardo said.
The UIF said it has paid up to R38.5 billion, with 727 238 applications submitted.
The Department of Employment and Labour is also still to announce when applications for April/May will be closed.