R350 Grant Will Reportedly Be Extended

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The Social Relief of Distress grant, which has provided financial relief to unemployed South Africans, is said to be extended for another year. Can the country afford it?


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The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has provided the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant for more than a year and now The City Press has reported that this grant is set to be extended for another year.  

Back in September, during a virtual address to Cosatu's three day Central Committee, President Cyril Ramaphosa alluded to an extension of this grant saying that "serious consideration should be given to extending further support to the unemployed and those who are structurally marginalized, possibly in the form of the Covid-19 SRD grant". 

Now several senior government officials have reportedly told The City Press that they are certain that the Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana, will announce the extension of the SRD grant in his budget speech in February next year. 

The temporary grant was introduced in 2020 when the country went into a hard lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic and many people had lost their jobs. 

Since the introduction, there have been many calls to the government to make the grant permanent and use it as the first guide for the introduction of a basic income grant as the country faces high levels of poverty. 

Although the fiscus is under severe strain, a presidency official says that National Treasury will have to find money to assign to the SRD grant.

According to the National Treasury framework, there's no money. If you look at the 2021 medium-term budget policy statement, you'll see that there's an unallocated reserve - for the medium term - of 73.2 billion. That line item was not there before.. 

He says the line item only appeared during Covid-19 and that this suggests that it was for unforeseen expenses. 

There are currently 9,5 million people receiving the R350 grant every month. Extending the grant by a year will cost the government another R40 billion. 

This official says that although the cost of the grant in the medium term would be "way in access of the unallocated reserve amount", the presidency wanted the SRD grant to continue so National Treasury would have to find the money to make it happen.


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