The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture has made significant progress in the disbursement of Relief Funds for athletes and artists, whose livelihoods were affected by the COVID-19 lockdown, Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Saturday.
In March, the department availed R200 million for this function. Of this amount, R150 million is being distributed by the national departments. Provincial departments will between them disburse R50 million.
"We have been working tirelessly to ensure that as many people as possible get relief during this time," he said.
The department, said Mthethewa, received 470 applications for relief funding. Of these, 296 were approved and paid. While 176 were rejected, 26 were taken up on appeal. Of these, 10 were successful, while three were rejected.
"These (rejected appeals) are chance takers. They applied, were successful, received their relief fund and again appealed but were detected. The other 11 still have information outstanding," Minister said.
The Minister conceded that the Arts and Culture adjudication was initially problematic. However, the department had since worked through the glitches.
"We have been rectifying these as we move on and have made significant progress. The original number of successful applicants was 1 250, but the high number of those rejected compelled us to start an appeals process to speed up the platform for those who were rejected for their cases to heard by the independent appeals committee," he said.
Previoulsy, the Minister expressed concern by the high number of declined applications. Most of these were applicants from previously disadvantaged communities.
"You could see that they were desperate for assistance. We decided that we need to look how we can help them within the confines of the legal prescripts. As a result, the number of successful apllicants has increased to 1 520, therefore reducing the number of those not recommended from 1 930 to 1 660.
"The number will continue to change due to the pending appeals," Mthethwa said.
This adjudication panel attended to 698 applications, with 270 of these having been successful. A total of 1 050 had been sent for payment by 26 May.
The Minister confirmed that 1 320 applications are ready for payment, with 592 having already been paid.
Helping those in dire straits
On 6 May, the department met with the sector to look at how those in dire need of assistance would receive funding. A meeting by the department and sector organisation has seen the quagmire navigated.
"We are grateful for their cooperation and assistance during this time, and availing themselves to assist the process.
"We have subsequently beefed up our mechanisms in order to fast track the process," the Minister said.
Re-opening the sector
The announcement of amended restrictions under lockdown level 3, come 1 June, will see a gradual introduction of sectoral activity under strict restriction under safety measures.
"This is not easy because there is no sector more affected, because it derives livelihoods from crowds," Mthethwa said.
He said the department is not oblivious to the daily challenges of athletes and artists due to the measures of the lockdown.
"They are hungry and they say it all the time," he said.
It is for this reason, Mthethea said, government will continue to soften the blow.