Fewer people receiving R350 grant — here's why – HeraldLIVE

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Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu says there has been a decline in the number of applications approved for the R350 social relief of distress grant (SRD). 
Zulu, who was addressing media on Monday, said the number of recipients for the grant had dropped to 7.5-million. The number of recipients was more than 10.5-million in the previous cycle.
The significant drop comes after a change in the qualification criteria, with applicants having to pass a R624 means test threshold to qualify.
This means applicants can’t have an income flow of R624 or more into their bank account from other sources.
“We increased the means test threshold from R350 to R624 and today we can announce that nearly 7.5-million people are receiving the benefit on a monthly basis. As we are approaching the levels of support and coverage that we committed to, namely 10.5-million people, we also need to be cautious not to over-commit government to levels of funding that are beyond the allocated budget,” said Zulu. 
She said there were still challenges with beneficiaries uploading incorrect bank details. 
“We also urge all approved applicants who are not yet paid to check the status of bank verification, and if needs be, correct their banking details,” she said. 
“Applicants are encouraged not to change their bank details frequently because every change requires that the new account be verified. Once your bank details are loaded or updated, please wait for a response from your bank before changing your details.”
Last week, the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) urged SRD grant applicants without smartphones not to choose the EFT payment method. This was after its customer care unit in Mpumalanga received complaints from beneficiaries unable to process EFT payments.
Sassa said it discovered that all the beneficiaries who said they could not process the EFT payments had mobile phones with “little to no computing or internet capacity”. 
The EFT payment method requires smartphones with corresponding apps for such transactions.
DA MP and shadow social development minister Bridget Masango said the smartphone requirement excludes vulnerable applicants.
“When the grant was announced in 2020, the DA warned that making the application process exclusively online would exclude many potential beneficiaries who did not have access to the internet, data or the necessary devices. 
“The department of social development and Sassa promised volunteers would assist those vulnerable people. Alas, multitudes were left to fend for themselves,” she said. 
Masango said the DA would write to the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on social development to ask Sassa to account on the matter.
“Instead of doing their all to make access to grants easier, Sassa continuously leaves beneficiaries in the lurch through all manner of obstacles,” she said. 
“One must question if Sassa is artificially trying to reduce beneficiary numbers following a realisation that without economic stimulation and growth, the SRD grant of R350 — vital to millions — cannot be sustained indefinitely.”
TimesLIVE
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