The Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, announced on Monday that the department had identified hotspots of hunger, saying "we are looking the Covid-19 storm in the eye, but there's another storm of hunger".
Zulu said the areas are in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.
She said this during a media briefing on Monday, following President Cyril Ramaphosa's address to the nation on Sunday evening.
"We need to respond as quickly as we possibly can, we need to be agile. The storm is here and there isn't time," she said.
Zulu said the department had thus far received over 7.5 million special Covid-19 social relief of distress grant applications through the various electronic application platforms. Of this number, over four million had been approved.
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Zulu also announced that over two million of those applications were active on various databases, including those who are currently receiving social grants, UIF benefits, UIF contributors and NSFAS stipends.
"We acknowledge the public's frustration with regards to the administration and payment of this grant. However, let me hasten to add that the system is dependent on the verification of the applicant's information by other stakeholders to reduce the margin of error and avoid paying ineligible applicants.
"Given the limited financial resources available, we have to ensure that the money only reaches those who qualify for this support. In line with my commitment that we will pay successful applications from May 2020, I can confirm that 3 429 808 of the approved applications were paid as at 12 July."
She said over R1 billion in payments were disbursed to applicants who applied in May.
She added that the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) will, on a monthly basis, reassess all applications to ensure that, where circumstances have changed and income is received from any other source, the grant will not continue to be paid.
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The department had also requested Post Bank to open accounts for the clients to enable payment without delay.
She added that, over the last two weeks, she had instructed Sassa to review all declined applications after noticing the high number of rejections.
"Sassa has undertaken an internal reconsideration of previously declined applications due to UIF, after having received an updated database from the Department of Labour and Employment.
"The number of declined applications as a result of the ID having been found on the UIF database has declined significantly," she said, adding that approximately 900 000 validated applications were found to potentially qualify for payment from May following the reconsideration process.
"Sassa is currently processing payments to these applicants.
"In order to address further exclusion errors, Sassa is implementing a Recourse Mechanism for applicants who have been declined and wish to review the decision."