R350 Covid-19 grants can now go to those making less than R624 a month – back to the food poverty line
The R350 Covid-19 subsidies should be paid to those earning less than R624 per month, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu formally proposed on Thursday. the national food poverty line. The food poverty line had previously been used as the resource test, but the test was tightened under budget pressure. Several organizations have called for the conversion of the Special Emergency Social Assistance (SRD) into a form of permanent, universal income support.
The income test for Covid-19 social emergency (SRD), the monthly payments of R350 instituted during the pandemic, should be increased by 78%, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu proposed on Thursday.
Zulu has published a proposed update of the regulations underlying the payments of the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa)requesting comments by 29 July.
One of the proposed changes sets the “income threshold for insufficient resources” at R624, an increase from the current R350.
That’s the fundamental test of someone’s eligibility for the monthly payment. There are other requirements; recipients must be South Africans or documented foreigners legally resident in the country, for example, and must not unreasonably refuse to accept work or educational opportunities. But the first test is whether they have access to more than enough funds, which were controversially set at R350 in April.
R624 is the national food poverty line identified by Statistics South Africa in September 2021. That’s how much a person needs to meet the recommended minimum daily energy intake, the agency calculated at the time. That separates it from the lower poverty line, which adds non-food items essential to every household, and is set at R890.
That makes the food poverty line a statistical tool used to measure absolute poverty, not a hard measure of how much money is needed to survive in South Africa.
The means test was lowered to R350 in April, in what some experts described as the national treasury forcing the social development department to exclude more people from the grant to stay within budget.
The income test was originally set at R595, the food poverty rate when the pandemic hit.
It was not clear exactly how many people were excluded from the payments when the income limit was lowered – and it is not clear what the increase to R624 per month will mean for national finances.
Several organizations have called for the R350 grants to become a regular part of the South African social support landscape so that they can become the foundation for universal income support and perhaps a universal basic income system.
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