The Department of Social Development has extended Friday’s deadline for the application of the COVID-related Early Childhood Development or ECD Employment Stimulus Relief Fund to the 26th of February.

So far, the department has received just over 16 000 applications with more than 74 500 early childhood development employees registered.

The extension for applications comes after the COVID-19 People’s Coalition for Early Childhood Development and the Basic Education Working Group called on government to extend the deadline and to remove all bureaucratic challenges.

ECD employees have experienced difficulties in applying for the funding.

Social Manager for Early Childhood Development, Mpho Papale says ECD employees have experienced difficulties in applying for the funding.

“So, in order for us to be on time and to make sure that we pay them by the end of March, we looked at extending for a week. So that it can give us a chance to make payments and also to process in terms of the verifications and also to make sure that by the end of this financial year, we have paid the ECD services that qualified in terms of the application.”

The Department of Social Development says it has arranged for over 100 Non Government Organisations and 200 Harambee youth to help with the ECD applications across the country.

Papale elaborates, “We had engagements with our ECD forums and our ECD sector where we requested them to assist with their ECD services in terms of applications. So, we also have information sessions that we are conducting through our intersectional forum, our ECD forum, our provinces and in the district.”

Papale says the department was allocated a budget of R496 million towards the relief fund.

“In terms of the allocation that we got from National Treasury so that it can benefit about 108 833 existing ECD related workers, we received a budget of R496 million that was allocated so that we can look at unemployment real support in terms of having compliance support officers.”

A survey by the National Dynamics Income Study group representing academics found that 68% of respondents could not afford the fees at Early Childhood Centres due to job losses and pay cuts experienced during the lockdown.