The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture’s COVID-19 Relief Fund has come to the rescue of 293 financially distressed athletes, Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced on Monday (May 4).

This comes after a R150 million Relief Fund was announced to assist artists, athletes, technical personnel and the core ecosystem of the sector.

The sport adjudication process began on 9 April. The deadline for application to the Relief Fund was 6 April. Subsequent to this, independent adjudication committees were appointed to oversee the process.

After President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national state of disaster on 15 March, the department held a consultative meeting with the sport and creative sector.

Addressing reporters, Mthethwa said: “The other part of this fund was open to proposals for livestreaming the work of creatives and athletes, particularly, intergenerational cooperation between younger artists and the legends.”

The 293 successful athletes are from Boxing SA (47), athletics (86), canoeing (2), equestrian (21), fencing (7), golf (70), gymnastics (3), netball (8), football (17), SA National Boxing Organisation (4), those with disability (15), surfing (5), tennis (2) and triathlon (5).

The Minister said the processing of the funds was largely through the relevant federations but payment was made directly by government.

Each athlete, he said, was entitled to a claim capped at R20 000.

“On the 23rd of April, more than 300 applications were received and the disimbursement of relief funds to succesful applicants began. On 24 April, 93 successful applicants received their relief funds.”

After re-submission of applications were referred back to the federations, Mthethwa said a total (aggregate) of 473 applications were received from 25 sporting federations.

“We made a point at the time that the sector is going to be the hardest hit by the pandemic since the necessary measures to curb the spread of the virus were detrimental to the sector,” said Mthethwa.

The sport adjudicators, by April 23, had received 300 applications. The disbursement of funds to successful applications began the following day.

Mthethwa said the department was concerned by the large number of declined applications.

“We are concerned that a number of people did not succeed. These applications come from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. We need to do due diligent to adhere with criteria agreed upon. We are thinking that we need to do something to ensure that people who need this assistance get it,” said the Minister.

Reasons for declined funding applications included applications missing documents and no proof of event cancellation.

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