President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation this evening [April 21] and announced a number of financial assistance measures that will support South Africans across the country during the rest of lockdown and beyond.
“This evening, I wish to address you on our economic and social response to this global health emergency. The pandemic requires an economic response that is equal to the scale of the disruption it is causing. We are now embarking on the second phase of our economic response to stabilise the economy, address the extreme decline in supply and demand and protect jobs.” said Ramaphosa.
As part of the second phase, Ramaphosa outlined the following needs that will be addressed.
Relief of hunger and social distress
A temporary six-month social grant of R50-million will be dedicated towards helping families affected by the virus and the lockdown.
Over the next two weeks 250 000 food parcels will be distributed across the country to help those in need of food and groceries.
The Child Support Grant will be increased by R500 for the next six months and all other grants will be increased by R250 for the next six months as well.
A Special Social Relief of Distress Grant of R350 will be offered for the next six months.
A new model for food assistance will be introduced in the form of vouchers and cash transfers.
“The Department of Social Development will issue the requirements needed to access and apply for this funding,” said Ramaphosa.
Extra ordinary budget for coronavirus response
A massive social relief and economic support package of R500-billion was announced, which amounts to around 10% of GDP.
This budget will go towards food support, special COVID-19 social grants, assisting health workers with protective gear and other needed gear. The budget will also be used to set up field hospitals, provide emergency water, sanitise public transport and provide food and shelter for the homeless.
An additional amount of R2-billion will be made available to assist SMEs and small businesses like spaza shops.
A budget of R100-billion will be set aside for protection of jobs and to create jobs. R40-billion has been set aside for income support payments for workers whose employers are not able to pay their wages.
“In addition to existing tax relief measures, we will also be introducing a 4-month holiday for companies’ skills development levy contributions, fast-tracking VAT refunds and a 3-month delay for filing and first payment of carbon tax,” said Ramaphosa.
The President also addressed news of individuals taking advantage of food distribution.
“We are deeply disturbed by reports of unscrupulous people abusing the distribution of food and other assistance for corrupt ends. We will not hesitate to ensure that those involved in such activities face the full might of the law,” Ramaphosa added.
Ramaphosa also addressed a planned phased economic return for South Africa following the lockdown.
“We will follow a risk-adjusted approach to the return of economic activity, balancing the continued need to limit the spread of the coronavirus with the need to get people back to work. As I have said previously, if we end the lockdown too soon or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease. We will therefore follow a phased approach, guided by the best available scientific evidence, to gradually lift the restrictions on economic activity. As we do so, we remain firm in our resolve to contain the transmission of the virus,” he said.
The President ended his speech with words of encouragement for South Africans and stated that he would address the nation again on Thursday regarding the measures that will be taken beyond the nationwide lockdown to re-open the economy.
“Our new economy must be founded on fairness, empowerment, justice and equality. It must use every resource, every capability and every innovation we have in the service of the people of this country. Our new economy must open new horizons and offer new opportunities.
Over the past month, South Africans have opened their hearts each other. Even at this moment when such great sacrifice is demanded of us, we look to a better future with optimism. Even as we find ourselves at a moment of great peril, even as great sacrifices are demanded, even as we dare not allow our vigilance to waver, we look ahead to a better future,” he concluded.