• Three million South African workers received special coronavirus-related payouts from the UIF for April. Applications for May were supposed open on Wednesday.
  • However, a damaged fibre link has disrupted the process. 
  • The payouts are due to end in June, but government can decide to extend it – though smaller payments are expected.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Workers and companies were supposed to start applying for special coronavirus payouts from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), for the month of May, from Wednesday.

But a "freak break" in the fibre link between the UIF’s offices and the State Information and Technology Agency (Sita) has halted this process.

"We have received an avalanche of complaints because of this and we understand how this could be frustrating to our clients and stakeholders," said UIF Commissioner Teboho Maruping.

"I would like to assure each and every one of those who have been negatively affected that this was beyond our hands but [we] will try to make up. It should be noted that in the last two months we have had peak traffic as a result of our lockdown relief benefits. In general we have managed to keep our heads above water under those circumstances and there is no reason why we will not push ourselves to do our utmost to catch up."

So far the UIF has paid out more than R15 billion in Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) payments, covering the period between the start of lockdown to the end of April.

Three million workers have received money from the UIF.

Prominent companies received money, including Sasol, Mr Price, Damelin, a number of Bidvest businesses, some Protea hotels and Engen service stations, as well as individual Spur, Wimpy and McDonald’s restaurants.

Workers who are put on leave, have been laid off temporarily, or whose employers can’t afford to pay their full salaries due to the coronavirus crisis are entitled to the TERS payouts.

The maximum a worker will get is R6,730 a month (if you earn more than R17,700) – while the minimum amount is R3,500.

Employers had to apply on behalf of employees, and then received a payment from the UIF, which had to be paid to their workers.

But many employers struggled to get the money due to various problems.

READ | UIF Covid-19 payout trouble: These are the most common problems holding back the cash

A lot has changed since the first applications were accepted in April:

READ | Step-by-step guide to applying for TERS payments

The TERS payments were supposed to run only to the end of June, but government is assessing whether payments can be extended, labour minister Thulas Nxesi said recently. He warned, however, that the UIF may be forced to reduce the benefit. 

The labour department will on Thursday present on the UIF’s technical and financial capacity to continue to pay out TERS benefits in the long run at a meeting of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). 

Nxesi says the department needs to guarantee the sustainability of funds beyond June 2020.

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