Picture: WERNER HILLS
Picture: WERNER HILLS

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) will do payment reruns this week for outstanding claims in the government’s wage protection scheme that could provide relief to workers who did not receive much-needed money during the first five months of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“The fund has been sporadically rerunning claims for the previous months, but this time we have decided to recycle all claims to ensure that those that have updated declarations and discrepancies are paid when we rerun the payments,” acting UIF commissioner Marsha Bronkhorst said.

This week will be dedicated to doing reruns for the period between April and September. The process will be repeated for the entire lockdown period on Saturday in a bid to clear the backlog so beneficiaries will not suffer during the festive season, she said.

The Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) benefit was introduced in March to help workers affected by the Covid-19 lockdown, and was initially set to run for three months, from April to June. The government then extended the scheme to run from August 16 to mid-September. In November, it was extended for another month, until October 15.

Ters has been frequently hit by problems, such as huge backlogs and unauthorised payments, which left workers unable to access assistance after companies cut jobs or imposed pay reductions.

The auditor-general has since uncovered alleged fraud and irregularities in the system, leading to the suspension of UIF senior management. It was found in a second auditor-general report, released last week three months after the first one, that controls have improved.

The UIF has paid out R55.6bn in 12.9-million payments from 1.1-million applications since the hard lockdown.

In mid-November, the fund started processing applications for the second extension of the wage scheme.

The UIF said it has since then paid out R1bn to 272,686 workers. Applications for this period (September 16-October 15) close at end-December and no further applications will be accepted.

Bronkhorst said annual leave for key personnel in operations, information and communications, and finance has been postponed to fast-track the processing and payment of normal UIF benefits.

There will be a mandatory shutdown from December 24 to January 1 for systems maintenance.

“The decision to postpone annual leave for some of our officials was not taken lightly, but is being implemented to ensure that we continue to process and pay our beneficiaries to enable them to meet their financial obligations and support their families during the festive season,” she said.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za

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