Bolsonaro confirms BRL 400 stipends for new cash-transfer program

cash transfer program
Bolsonaro with supporters. Photo: Alan Santos/PR

During a public appearance in the northeastern state of Ceará on Wednesday, President Jair Bolsonaro confirmed that the government’s proposed new cash-transfer program will give out monthly payments of BRL 400 (USD 72) to needy Brazilians.

The scheme — entitled Auxílio Brasil — is tipped to be a beefed-up version of the world-renowned Bolsa Família program, which currently pays average monthly stipends of BRL 190. Mr. Bolsonaro is seeking to take ownership of the welfare program, which has traditionally been tied to the center-left Workers’ Party — hence the name change.

“Yesterday we decided that, as the [coronavirus] emergency aid program is coming to an end, that we should increase the old Bolsa Família program, now called Auxílio Brasil,” said the president.

The program’s launch was originally planned to take place yesterday, but it was canceled at the last minute due to panic from financial markets, foreseeing the proposed welfare problem as a huge threat to Brazil’s federal spending cap. The government has been trying to reach an agreement with Congress to set a cap on the administration’s repayments of registered warrants in 2022. A deal would free up some fiscal wiggle room, but not nearly enough to bankroll a benefits scheme paying BRL 400 a month to needy individuals.

Regardless, the president claimed today that Auxílio Brasil will not affect the constitutional spending ceiling. “We have the responsibility to make these resources come from the federal budget itself. No one is going to break the [spending] cap or make mischief with the budget,” he said.