Employment and Labour Deputy Minister Boitumelo Booi says the COVID-19 Temporary Employers/ Employee Relief Fund, set up to help those who found themselves out of work due to lockdown, will be extended to August.
This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa extended the national state of disaster to August as the COVID-19 pandemic spurs national efforts to mitigate the spread of infections.
“I must say, Honourable Members, that it gives me great pleasure to also announce that following due diligence and consultation with the UIF actuaries and in line with the President’s decision to extend the life of the Disaster Management Act until the 15th of August 2020, we have taken a decision to similarly extend the COVID-19 TERS benefit until the 15th of August 2020,” she said.
Booi said this when she led a debate on the department’s budget vote via a virtual National Assembly mini-plenary on Tuesday in place of Minister Thulas Nxesi, who could not make the plenary due to ill health.
Nxesi was admitted to hospital for better medical care on the advice of his medical doctors last night after testing positive for COVID-19 over a week ago.
Addressing the plenary, Booi said the benefit structure and existing criteria would remain the same and applications for April and May will be closed by the end of July although applications already received for these two months will be processed – this is the guarantee that the department gave to the people.
To date, some R34 billion in benefits has been distributed through employers in 7.4 million payments to recipients and this was in line with a commitment to provide income support for three months.
During the same period, a further R4 billion was disbursed in normal UIF benefits in 677 000 payments to beneficiaries.
“The provision of the COVID-19 TERS benefit also required strict financial controls and I am reassured, Honourable Chairperson and Honourable Members, that it was the UIF itself that detected recent attempted fraudulent activities and I am also encouraged by the speedy response of our law enforcement agencies in bringing the culprits to book,” she said.
UIF call centre improves call answer rate
Booi said, meanwhile, that the UIF is revamping its call centre to better respond to the client’s queries.
“In the last week, I can report reliably that the call answer rate has improved from 88% to 97%, reflecting an improved average speed to answer calls to 26 seconds.
“So your calls will not necessarily be ringing unanswered for a very long time but there will be a response within a few seconds,” she said.