Sunday, 25 July 2021

Pretoria: President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a range of measures to support the recovery of the economy and provide relief to the poor and those who were left vulnerable due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

The President made the announcement on Sunday night when he eased regulations and placed the country under Adjusted Alert Level 3 lockdown, which allows for inter-provincial travel, limited alcohol sales and several social gatherings.

“We are taking decisive action now to secure the livelihoods of millions of people that have been threatened by both the pandemic and the unrest.

“We are announcing a range of measures to support the recovery of the economy and provide relief to the poor and those who are vulnerable as a result of the measures that we had to impose to deal with COVID-19.

“To support those who have no means of supporting themselves, we are reinstating the Social Relief of Distress Grant to provide a monthly payment of R350 until the end of March 2022,” he said.

The President said government is expanding the number of people who are eligible for this grant by allowing unemployed caregivers who currently receive a Child Support Grant to apply.

“In addition to the food relief being provided by the Department of Social Development, government is contributing R400 million to the Humanitarian Crisis Relief Fund established by the Solidarity Fund to assist with the immediate needs of affected communities.”

Measures to help businesses rebuild SA

The President said, meanwhile, that the recent incidents of riots and looting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal have left devastation in communities and impacted negatively on livelihoods.

The most immediate need is to ensure that those businesses that were damaged or looted are able to rebuild and reopen as quickly as possible.

“Businesses that are insured will be covered by SASRIA. SASRIA has committed to expedite the payment of all valid claims, and is working together with private insurers to ensure that assessments are completed without delay.

“Government will ensure that SASRIA is able to honour all of its obligations and will provide whatever support is necessary in this regard,” he said.

However, some businesses that were victims of the violence may not have been insured, including many small and medium-sized businesses, whether formal or informal.

“Many of these businesses have lost everything, and will not be able to rebuild on their own. We will not abandon them in their time of need.

“We are therefore working to extend support to uninsured businesses that were affected by the violence,” he said.

The President said government will set aside dedicated funds for this purpose and will soon announce a mechanism for these businesses to apply for support.

“We will also be reprioritising funding for SMMEs affected by the pandemic through a once-off business survival funding mechanism.

“We are also working with large business to determine their contribution to the support of SMMEs, job creation and eradication of hunger and poverty.”

TERS support

The President said, meanwhile, that two weeks ago government announced that the COVID-19 TERS scheme would be extended for those sectors which were affected by Alert Level 4 restrictions during the past 28 days.

“Applications for this period are open, and the UIF will facilitate payments as quickly as possible to support workers who have not received an income.

“Most importantly, the UIF will provide income support to all those employees who have lost jobs as a result of the recent unrest. This will ensure that jobs are protected and that workers can continue to earn an income as those businesses take time to rebuild.”

The President said while the TERS scheme has provided crucial support for many sectors that have been unable to operate, there is a need to provide even further relief to help businesses to recover.

“We are therefore expanding the Employment Tax Incentive for a period of four months to include any employee earning below R6 500 and to increase the incentive amount by up to R750 per month,” he said.

The President said this will encourage employers to hire and retain employees, especially those in the retail and hospitality sectors which have been worst affected.

SARS to defer PAYE taxes by three months

The President said, meanwhile, government will give businesses a breather to allow them to stabilise their cashflow.

“We will also defer payment of PAYE taxes for a period of three months to provide businesses with additional cash flow, with an automatic deferral of 35 percent of PAYE liabilities for employers with revenue below R100 million,” he said.

The payment of excise taxes by the alcohol sector will be deferred for a period of three months, to ease the burden on the sector as it recovers.

President Ramaphosa said these interventions are designed to extend as much relief as possible to individuals and businesses that are in need of support, without compromising fiscal sustainability.

“The impact of recent events on our economy has made the implementation of our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan even more important.

“We have been working closely with our social partners on the further measures we will take to address poverty, accelerate the implementation of reforms, drive inclusive growth and create jobs.”