The City of Johannesburg (“The City”) has a number of financial assistance measures in place for its consumers. Each of these measures has their own specific requirements that a consumer would have to meet in order to qualify. Examples include the Pensioners’ Rebate and the Expanded Social Package.
What is the ESP?
The City rolled out its Expanded Social Package (“ESP”) several years ago. The ESP is a social welfare programme facilitated by the Social Development Department of the municipality, with a view to provide much needed financial assistance to owners/occupants of residential properties who have a limited income and are not pensioners. The ESP is designed to provide a “basket of benefits” to owners/occupants who qualify as “indigent”.
Who is the ESP intended to benefit?
The ESP is intended to target the vulnerable residents within the jurisdiction of the City such as the unemployed, women and children, youth, senior residents, persons with disabilities and displaced persons. Since July 2019, the ESP has provided its benefits to approximately 30,000 residents.
What benefits does the ESP offer?
The ESP provides rebates on water, electricity, sewer and refuse, and property rates on a tiered system, dependent on the level of poverty of the consumer concerned. For the unemployed and working age residents (aged 18-59), a rates rebate will apply if the property in question is under R500,000.00 and, for pensioners, rebates for rates, sewer and refuse are available for properties valued under R2,500,000.00.
How do I qualify?
In order to qualify for the ESP, an individual or household must:
i. be a South African citizen;
ii. reside within the City’s boundaries;
iii. have a monthly income of less than the prescribed amount, currently R6,086.37; and
iv. re-apply every six months. For bedridden or chronically ill patients, the Social Development Department offers social worker services by way of home visitations, affording these people the same opportunity to access the programme.
However, during the current COVID-19 outbreak and the required social distancing measures, it would be irresponsible and impractical for the City to require beneficiaries of the ESP to have to attend Council to renew their ESP. As such, the City has extended the ESP, and, as such, current beneficiaries whose registration would expire between March and June 2020 will have an additional six months prior to having to reapply for the ESP.
The ESP programme is also linked to the City’s food bank and beneficiaries of the ESP also qualify for referral to other services offered by the City, such as Skills Development and Intervention Programmes.
ESP during COVID
It would seem that, despite the difficulties posed by the current lockdown, the City has continued to provide such an essential service and package to its residents. Arguably, now more than ever, such a programme is essential due to the struggle to acquire an income. The City may see more of its residents applying for access to the ESP.
The Future of the ESP
The City is reviewing the current rebates offered under the ESP. While this is a positive move by the City in better providing for its residents, it has yet to provide further specifics on what the plan for extending access to the ESP will be. While the City decides on what expansions will be made in the form of relief for its residents, the City is still accepting applications for its already existing relief schemes, such as the pensioners’ rebate and the ESP.
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