Covid-19 grant is not enough, say activists

The extension of the R350 grant has been welcomed but it is insufficient, say civic organisations

By Marecia Damons

15 February 2021

Photo of a crowd

People queue for the Covid-19 grant in Cape Town. Archive photo: Tariro Washinyira

Civil society organisations say the three-month extension of the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant offers temporary relief for beneficiaries, but there is a lack of long-term planning for social protection.

During his State of the Nation Address last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the extension of the grant which was due to end on 31 January.

In a joint statement, the C19 People’s Coalition, Black Sash and the Institute for Economic Justice said they welcomed the extension, but they said it was short-sighted since it offers no long-term relief for its current beneficiaries and still excludes caregivers.

They say that the eligibility criteria for the Covid-19 grant must be reassessed to allow more caregivers to apply and that the grant should be increased to the food poverty line of R585 per month.

“There can be no recovery without continued, sustainable support. Temporary relief is simply not enough at this critical stage and the focus on jobs and grants is not mutually exclusive; we need both,” they said in a statement.

On 25 January 2021, organisations endorsing the #PayTheGrants campaign wrote to the Presidency, the Ministry of Social Development and the National Treasury to discuss their demands on social relief and the implementation of a Basic Income Grant.

They say they have yet to receive a response.

Meanwhile, the Black Sash is calling for immediate state intervention in the form of direct cash transfers to those who are unable to meet their basic needs.

Nearly ten million people applied for the Covid-19 grant, and about three million people were rejected. More than seven million recipients also benefited from the Caregiver Grant, which ended in October 2020.

“These figures illustrate how pervasive poverty and unemployment is. It further indicates that the President’s projection for a recovered economy with significant employment opportunities by the end of 2021 is extremely unrealistic,” the Black Sash said in a statement.