The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns meant that millions of unemployed individuals had no way to make money to feed themselves and their families. This saw the introduction of the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, commonly known as the R350 grant.
The grant has been distributed to beneficiaries for more than two years and eight months. Skills Portal looks at the timeline of the R350 grant from when it was introduced to now.
Here’s The Timeline Of The R350 Grant
May 2020 - R350 Grant Is Introduced
In May 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that a special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 a month will be introduced by the government. The grant would be paid for six months.
The R350 grant was to be paid to individuals who were unemployed and did not receive any other form of social grant or Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits. Beneficiaries of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) were disqualified from receiving the grant.
October 2020 - R350 Grant Extended For The First Time
In October 2020, the Finance Minister at the time, Tito Mboweni announced that the R350 grant would be extended to January 2021. This announcement of this extension was made during the 2022 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement
The Minister said, “The Cabinet has decided to extend the Social Relief of Distress grant to the end of January 2021. Because this grant is so effective in reaching the unemployed, we propose to redirect R6.8 billion from the public employment programme allocation”.
At the time, the grant had around 6 million beneficiaries.
February 2021 - Ramaphosa Announced R350 Grant Three-Month Extension
During the 2021 State Of The National Address (SONA), President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that the government decided to extend the R350 grant by three months.
The president explained, “This has proven to be an effective and efficient short-term measure to reduce the immediate impact on the livelihoods of poor South Africans.”
According to Sassa, the agency has processed more than 9.6 million R350 grant applications each month from May 2020 to January 2021 and has paid more than 6.5 million grants per month.
April 2021 - R350 Grant Implementation Ends
At the end of April 2021, Sassa made the last R350 grant payments to beneficiaries around the country.
July 2021 - R350 Grant Is Reinstated by Government
In July 2021, President Ramaphosa announced that the R350 grant would be reinstated. They explained that the government could afford to reinstate the grant due to a slight improvement in revenue collection.
The grant was extended until March 2022.
February 2022 - R350 Grant Extended By 12 Months
During the 2022 SONA, President Rampahosa announced that the SRD grant would be extended by 12 months. This meant that the grant would come to an end in March 2023.
In April 2022, the president ended the National State of Disaster. This was concerning as the R350 grant was provided under Section 27(2)of the Disaster Management Act, 2002.
However, the president assured grant recipients that payments will continue as normal.
Sassa then announced that the R350 grant would be provided under the Social Assistance Act. It's important to note that when the change in legislation under which the grant was provided occurred, Sassa changed the income threshold for the grant.
The income threshold refers to the amount of money that an applicant of the R350 grant is allowed to have in their banking account. If an applicant has more than the income threshold, they will not qualify for the R350 grant.
Under the Disaster Management Act, the income threshold was R595 and the grant was paid to around 10.9 million people monthly.
However, under the Social Assistance Act, the income threshold was moved to R350. This resulted in only around 5.8 million people benefiting from the grant.
July 2022 - More People Expected To Qualify For The R350 Grant
In July 2022, the income threshold of the R350 grant was increased to R624. Sassa anticipated that this would result in an increase in individuals eligible to receive the R350 grant.
October 2022 - 12 month extension
In October 2022, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana announced a 12-month extension of the R350 grant. This will see the grant being paid to beneficiaries until March 2024.
The minister warned that any permanent extension or replacement will require permanent increases in revenue, reductions in spending elsewhere, or a combination of the two.
February 2023 - President Announces Intention To Continue Implementation Of Grant
During the 2023 SONA speech, President Ramaphosa announced government will continue paying the R350 grant. However, the president stated did not reveal if the grant will be beyond March 2024.
While National Treasury budget documents said although the SRD grant will continue, government is considering options to provide alternative social protection to those receiving it.
November 2023 - Finance Minister Announces Another R350 Grant Extension
On 2 November 2023, Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana announced the extension of the R350 grant which was previously set to end in March of 2024. The most recent extension allows that beneficiaries can collect their R350 grant until March of 2025.