Unemployed people queue for UIF payments. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Unemployed people queue for UIF payments. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The application process for the extended Covid-19 relief scheme, which would allow workers to receive much-needed money for July and August, is still not open because the government has not yet published a directive on it.

The Temporary Employer/Employee Relief scheme (Ters) was initially envisaged to cover April, May and June and was established as a key part of the government’s R500bn economic and social relief package to help those affected by the lockdown, which is set to push the economy into its biggest slump in about a century.

It was announced in July that the Ters benefit would be extended for an extra six weeks until August 15. This has not yet happened. 

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), through which Ters is funded, said the opening of applications is subject to the publishing of a ministerial directive on the extension. 

“Once this has been published, an announcement will be made as to when the UIF will start processing claims for July and August 2020,” spokesperson Makhosonke Buthelezi said. “I am aware that the system has been tested and is ready for processing July/August claims.”

There is no indication as to when the directive will be published.

The DA said employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi must indicate when the July applications will open. He owes it to the anxious and desperate workers of SA, who aren’t sure when their next pay cheque will arrive,” MP Michael Cardo said. The ministry referred all questions regarding the Ters benefit to the UIF. 

A total of R40bn has been set aside for Ters, and Buthelezi said that, as of Saturday, the UIF had paid out about R38.5bn from 727,238 applications, covering 8.7-million workers. 

The UIF has been adamant there is no backlog in paying the benefits, despite workers and employers left waiting for payments. By mid-July, some workers and employers were still waiting for payments from April and May.

Deputy employment and labour minister Boitumelo Moloi told parliament last month that applications for April and May would be closed by the end of July.

The National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) is apparently finalising a plan to extend Ters for three months from July to September for selected categories of workers.

According to a survey conducted by the National Employers’ Association of SA (Neasa), 14% of employers have still not received their April Ters money, and of the 86% that have, only 66% have been paid in full. A total of 42% of employers are still waiting for their June money, Neasa said. 

Last week, UIF commissioner Teboho Maruping said the fund is working to ensure that all Ters claims for April, May and June are settled and sorted out as it gears up to open the system for the new, extended period of six weeks. 

He said that to reduce the number of outstanding claims the fund is re-running updates on declarations on the system twice a week and that the UIF is making payments every day, except on Sundays, to fast-track outstanding claims. 

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

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