Pensioners queue to collect their grants at a Sassa pay point in Jeppes Reef, Mpumalanga. File photo: SOWETAN/SANDILE NDLOVU
Pensioners queue to collect their grants at a Sassa pay point in Jeppes Reef, Mpumalanga. File photo: SOWETAN/SANDILE NDLOVU

The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa), tasked with distributing social grants, has decided to relook at the declined applications for the temporary Covid-19 grant applications and get to the bottom of the reasons for the rejections.  

“The high numbers involved raised questions and Sassa decided that it would be wise to reconsider these before subjecting them to an appeal process, which comes at a cost and resultant delays, given the urgency to pay out the grant during these trying times for poor people impacted negatively by the national shutdown,” it said on Tuesday.

Sassa said more than 2.5-million applicants had already been paid so far from the more than 3.2-million who applied for the Covid-19 grant.

When the applications opened in May, the agency said it had received 13-million applications and inquiries for the payment of the R350-a-month social distress relief grant intended to help those with no source of income survive the Covid-19 lockdown.

The grant was only available to those who were not already receiving some sort of financial relief through a social grant, the UIF or National Student Financial Aid Scheme, among others.

Sassa CEO Busisiwe Memela-Khambula told parliament in May that 1.6-million applications were rejected as the applicants had some form of income.

Sassa said on Tuesday that in early June close to 50% of processed applications did not qualify in terms of the criteria. Over 70% of those that did not qualify were either receiving, or qualified for, UIF benefits according to the database that Sassa was using to sift through the applications.

Subsequently, Sassa has taken a decision to request an updated database to reconsider the declined UIF cases instead of advising the aggrieved applicants to follow the appeals route, it said.

Almost one-million people are still waiting for their UIF Covid-19 relief benefit, which has resulted in R4.2bn in unpaid claims.

Sassa said out of this reconsidered process it emerged that 85% of the UIF cases which were previously deemed not to be qualifying, actually qualify.

Those approved would be made aware of this development individually, it said. 

“Updating the UIF database has brought such a relief to us and the affected beneficiaries, the numbers will rise daily until we have paid all deserving individuals who were previously declined,” Memela-Khambula said.

She said Sassa was working with the department of social development to finalise the modalities of the appeals process for applicants who still feel that their applications were rejected unfairly.