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Extension of R350 COVID-19 grant to provide lifeline for struggling S.Africans

President Cyril Ramaphosa also announced the extension until 15 March of the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Temporary Employee-Employer Scheme (TERS) – but only for business sectors that have been unable to operate.

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa said that to date, 18 million South Africans had received additional social grant payments through the special COVID-19 social relief of distress grants. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN

CAPE TOWN - President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that the R350 special COVID-19 social relief of distress grant will be extended for the next three months will provide a lifeline for households battered by the pandemic and lockdown.

The grant was set to lapse at the end of January.

Ramaphosa’s also announced the extension until 15 March of the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Temporary Employee-Employer Scheme (TERS) – but only for business sectors that have been unable to operate.

FULL SPEECH: President Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address

“We have therefore decided to extend the period for the special COVID-19 grant of R350 by a further three months. This has proven to be an effective and efficient short-term measure to reduce the impact on the livelihoods of poor South Africans who are out of work. We have also decided to extend the COVID-19 TERS benefit until the 15th of March – only for those sectors who have not been able to open or operate.”

It seems only fair, when the government shuts down parts of the economy, that it helps those most affected. But President Ramaphosa’s announcement will be celebrated not only by the needy, but also by organised labour and civil society, who lobbied fiercely for the grants to be extended.

In his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday night, Ramaphosa reported back on the grants’ impact:

“A total of 18 million people, or close to one-third of our population, received additional grant payments through these relief measures it is estimated that this grant lifted more than five million above the food poverty line, helping to alleviate hunger in a moment of great distress and crisis.

“To date, more than R57bn in wage support has been paid to over 4.5 million workers through the special UIF TERS scheme.”

Ramaphosa said that sectors qualifying for the TERS extension would be announced after further talks at Nedlac. He also announced an overhaul of the loan guarantee scheme for small businesses that formed part of the government’s R500 billion COVID-19 relief package.

“That scheme needs to be recrafted, repositioned - and the Minister of Finance will deal with the matter.”

WATCH: Job creation and fighting corruption: Highlights from Sona 2021