Dear all,

Apologies for being quiet on the update front but not only is it manic on our side but more importantly the rules and procedures are still changing daily, if not hourly.

The Anton Rupert fund opened and closed 72 hours later after receiving over 10 000 applications and 2.8 billion in aid requests, 3 times oversubscribed. Having seen what is required to apply I sincerely doubt more than a fraction will be considered valid. We have a contact at Business Partners who will advise us in seven days whether or not there will be room for more applications. We will be monitoring this closely and suspect there may still be opportunity.

The Oppenheimer fund is less useful than originally proposed. They have limited the assistance to R750 per week per employee for 15 weeks. If you remember from our previous correspondence this money is in the form of a loan albeit interest free but is unlikely to be much use to most of us unfortunately.

The main fund which we have been applying for, on behalf of our clients, is the Debt Relief Initiative funded by the Solidarity Fund. We are still, unbelievably, waiting to find out exactly what assistance is on offer. We have many of the applications successfully submitted, some we are waiting on yourselves, and a few we are still trying to register as the website is flooded and tends to drop frequently. If you are one of the guilty who have not been forthcoming, please make sure you get the information to Derane promptly. In order to get this done MRM staff are logging in the early morning or late at night when traffic has eased off. Such are the tireless efforts of your accountants!

We are still getting mixed signals from the banks, suffice to say that if you have not approached them for cash flow relief you should probably do so as we anticipate bad results to be our bedfellow for the remainder of 2020 at the very least.

The main focus of this email is The Employee Relief Scheme (Ters). This is a classic example of an initiative which has changed its stripes almost daily. It’s a fairly technical application but I will try and bring it down into bite sized chunks with the salient points as they apply to you as at the time of writing.

Whilst Ters is funded via the UIF department it is delinked from the normal UIF benefits. There is no link towards time worked and it applies not only to companies totally closed down but also companies who have had partial closure. This is a new addition to the rules and quite a welcome one.

Ters will pay affected employees via the employer a sliding scale benefit of between 38% and 60% of their salary capped at R17 712. A misconception has been that an employee can receive their full benefit up to a payment of R17 712 which is incorrect. The monthly payout is limited to R6 700 or 38% of R17 712. The payout cannot be less than the minimum wage rate.

Benefits will be paid directly to the Employer, who is required to pay it onto the employee within 5 days of receipt thereof.

  1. The Employer is required to sign a Memorandum of Agreement with the Unemployment Insurance Fund. It’s a fairly simple contract whereby the employer promises not to steal all the money and agrees to a fate worse than death if they do.
  2. The Employer must open a new bank account for the sole purpose of receipting and paying out this money. We have been in contact with our banker at First National Bank and it appears to be a quick and painless exercise. He did say that it needs to be with the company’s primary bank however.
  3. The benefits are expected to be paid for a period of 3 months. Currently if the business is not anticipated to reopen within 3 months claiming is prohibited.
  4. Separate accounting records are to be kept for this account and COVID officials say they will be auditing these vigorously to prevent fraud.

Our view on this is quite simple. If you have been forced to either temporarily lay off staff or short time staff as a direct result of COVID-19 it would be foolhardy not to apply. We are also of a view that it’s the type of thing you want to get done quickly and correctly the first time as you cannot resubmit with changes.

MRM staff under the firm hand of Taryn are currently going hammer and tongs registering our clients and their staff for this. Taryn has a checklist of documentation to be done and how simple the process is, is governed by the Payroll Software you use. Currently the software we use for processing our client payroll, Simplepay, has come to the party and is allowing the export of employee data in a format accepted by Ters. Other software such as VIP is not as friendly and requires the recapturing of extensive data into very specific files and formats which is more time consuming.

Regardless, this is a time of solutions and not problems. If you want some assistance we urge you to get hold of Taryn on, she will advise you further if you qualify and what she needs to get you registered for benefits.

In order to give credibility to this we are happy to keep accounting records for you on this particular bank account and allow the threatened audits to be conducted via ourselves if necessary. We are hoping that by showing an accounting firm is looking over the process it will both expedite the application as well as hopefully bump us up the queue, if a queue indeed forms.

I don’t want to nag like an old fishwife but we need to accept help where help is offered. 2020 is going to be a rocky road and whilst everyone has an opinion, the truth of the matter is that we just do not know what is in store for us.

Whilst we have no control over this thing which has turned our lives upside down, we do have control over how we react to it. Preserving our reserves is vital and putting plans in place for a life after COVID equally so. Some of us may have to reengineer our businesses, others may have to resign themselves to rebuilding, whichever way we look at it we are going to have to make some big and difficult decisions and we are going to have our mettle tested as business people.

We are here to guide you, despite starting to get a cauliflower ear from sitting on the phone, and despite my right thumb starting to look bigger than my left compliments of WhatsApp, both Shireen and I welcome any of you to contact us or the firm’s management team should you need to discuss anything. If any of you have any information or experiences you want to share with us please do. We have had articles and legal opinion sent to us from many of our clients, you all know who you are and we thank you as we are expanding our knowledge base with each bit of input we receive.

Enough of my mindless jibber jabber.

Stay safe, stay positive and be healthy.
Chris, Shireen and the MRM Team