Despite many mistakes, delays, and glitches, the three-month BRL 600 (USD 107) emergency salary created in March is the Brazilian government’s key policy to curb the devastating economic impacts of Covid-19. Eligible beneficiaries include informal workers, single or teenage mothers, and the so-called “individual entrepreneurs.” The much-needed cushion, even if small, could be a matter of life and death to millions of families — and has helped improve President Jair Bolsonaro’s approval ratings up among lower-income voters.
At first, the government’s economic team had put forward a very conservative aid proposal of only BRL 200 per month — before it was increased by lawmakers. But senior government officials are putting their foot down when it comes to calls for a universal basic income system, or at least an extension of the emergency aid. Economists at think tank Fundação Getulio Vargas estimate that a permanent aid plan would cost 20 times as much as Bolsa Família — the much-heralded conditional cash-transfer program that lifted millions from extreme poverty in the 2000s.