Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurélio Mello suspended cuts to cash-transfer program Bolsa Família. Despite the promise to expand the program to cushion the economic downturns of the Covid-19 outbreak, the federal government has cut 158,000 beneficiaries in March. Two-thirds of them live in the Northeast, Brazil’s poorest region—and where President Jair Bolsonaro is least popular.
The injunction also forbids further cuts while Brazil is under a “state of calamity.”
The Supreme Court justice responded to a lawsuit filed by state administrations in the Northeast. According to data presented by the plaintiffs, the Northeast received only 3 percent of new benefits, despite posting lower social indicators. Meanwhile, the South and Southeast region concentrate 75 percent of new beneficiaries. “Discriminating people according to their place of residence is inconceivable,” says the decision.
Bolsa Família reaches families with per capita monthly income of BRL 178 (USD 35). Cícero Péricles, a Ph.D. in social economics whose research centers around Bolsa Família, says the move could entail a severe poverty crisis.