The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday proposed that the South African Revenue Services be drafted in to pay out Temporary Employee/employer Relief Scheme (TERS) benefits during the Covid-19 crisis if the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) lacks the capacity to handle an expected flood of applications.
DA labour spokesperson Michael Cardo said SARS patently had the capacity to roll out the relief because it collected the UIF contributions in the first place and it would speed up the process of getting relief to stricken workers and companies. In the ordinary course of events, SARS collects UIF money paid over by employers and transfers it to the UIF. SARS has the expertise and systems to pay over the Covid-19 Ters benefit to employers swiftly.”
Cardo said it was a matter of concern that it was not clear how many applications the UIF has received since South Africa’s Covid-19 outbreak began last month and the economy was largely shut down. The UIF needs to communicate clearly about how many Covid-19 TERS benefit applications it has received, processed and approved.
“This will hopefully help to ease the anxiety and desperation of many South African workers, who do not know whether they will be able to put food on the table at the end of the month.” he said. Cardo said media reports have quoted a figure of 27,000 applications for the Covid-19 TERS benefits but the number seemed doubtfully small given the extent to which companies had been forced to cease trading under the national lockdown.
“This seems like a very small number, given that over 1.5 million companies pay contributions to the UIF, that the overwhelming majority of those companies are currently shut down and many are in financial distress, and that thousands of employees are either on unpaid leave or temporarily laid off.
Crucially, he said, it was not clear when the UIF would begin paying out TERS benefits to those companies that have applied and when the money would flow into the pockets of workers in distress. The DA reiterates its call upon the government to publish a daily dashboard of claims received, processed and paid in terms of the Covid-19 TERS benefit.
“The UIF has a reputation for being inefficient, and it may face insurmountable human, infrastructural and IT-resource challenges in paying over the Covid-19 Ters benefit timeously. He quoted figures showing that in 2019, the UIF paid out 817,743 claims over 12 months. Of these claims, only 24,743 were made online by u-filing. During the lockdown, all UIF claims have to be processed electronically since labour centres are closed.
“We need to know, very quickly, whether the UIF is up to the task of processing and disbursing monies for a high volume of Covid-19 TERS applications. If it is not, then this function should be transferred to SARS to administer with immediate effect.”
The Congress of South African Trade unions have voiced similar concerns and also favours the government calling upon SARS to help distribute benefits payouts during the health crisis.
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