New emergency aid program starts next week, says Bolsonaro

emergency aid
President Jair Bolsonaro announces the new government aid program. Photo: Marcos Corrêa/PR

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro announced that a new round of government handouts to vulnerable workers will begin next week. With an overall budget of BRL 44 billion (USD 7.7 billion), the new aid scheme will pay out four monthly installments of up to BRL 375 (USD 66) each.

Alone, the new emergency aid benefits will not be enough to lift someone with no income above the line of extreme poverty, and payments are much lower than the scheme’s 2020 iteration. Once the pandemic struck last year, Congress approved monthly payments of BRL 600 to informal workers and the unemployed — which were later halved, and expired in December. 

The program increased the revenue of uneducated workers by 156 percent, despite pandemic-related economic woes.

While greatly reduced, the program will bring some relief to millions of families who recently fell back into extreme poverty. Think tank Fundação Getulio Vargas estimates that 12.8 percent of Brazil’s population — some 27 million people — live in poverty, the most since measurements began one decade ago.

While announcing the program, Mr. Bolsonaro once again spoke out against lockdown measures, saying that “starvation kills more than the coronavirus,” and Brazilians “won’t solve” their pandemic-related problems by staying at home.

The president’s statements come one day after Brazil registered 3,668 daily coronavirus deaths, a new record. Mr. Bolsonaro said that “no country can sustain a lockdown for a long time.”

Still, some states which toughened up restrictions have seen some improvements. The pace of new hospitalizations in the state of São Paulo has slowed down, from daily growth of 2.6 percent last week to 0.7 percent now.