Sassa has already quietly tested registration via WhatsApp for R350-per-month Covid-19 grants due to be paid to millions of unemployed people.
Some six million people are expected to qualify for the grants, making for payments of more than R2 billion per month – or R12 billion in total over the half year the special grant is due to run.
The WhatsApp system, and an accompanying USSD registration system for those without smartphones, is also due to displace physical food parcels delivered as part of normal relief-of-distress grants.
Here’s what we know about the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant system due to start payments in early May.
The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has already tested a WhatsApp registration process for what is formally known as the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant system.Image taken during the testing phase
Now some R2 billion a month may be paid out via simple online channels, for at least six months, in a major shift away from the cash payments, or deposits via traditional bank accounts, that has long bedevilled the already massive Sassa system.
Sassa confirmed its unannounced test of registration via WhatsApp over the weekend after it had already closed.
The system uses the government’s existing Covid-19 WhatsApp line, on 060 012 3456, which is now formally associated with the national department of health.
To date that platform has been used only to send users information about SARS-CoV-2, how to prevent infection, and where to go if they suspect they have Covid-19.
But now it is due to figure out who is eligible to receive the special unemployment grant, worth R2,100 over six months, and set up the payment mechanism.
The word “Sassa” sent to 060 012 3456 is due to start the registration process, though at the time of publication it triggered only a holding statement promising “SASSA will inform the public when applications via WhatsApp will resume”.
Another front end for registration, using USSD, is also due to be deployed, for use by those without access to a WhatsApp-capable smartphone.
Here below is some interactions on Sassa Twitter account
The Covid-19 grant is for those who are currently unemployed and who are receiving no other form of assistance.
Sassa has promised to check applicants against government databases, such as those for the Unemployment Insurance Fund, its own list of grant recipients, and those of the SA Revenue Service, to determine who is eligible.
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