Almost overnight, the coronavirus pandemic made income support a necessity in countries all over the world. Kept at home due to social isolation measures, workers have faced layoffs and wage cuts as the entire economy buckles under the pressure of the health emergency. In Brazil, the need for some form of benefits scheme was felt immediately by the tens of millions of workers in the informal sector, who virtually lost their work and income from one day to the next.
The Brazilian government’s response has been to launch a BRL 600 (USD 112) monthly stipend to informal workers, single mothers, and so-called “individual microentrepreneurs,” who are self-employed small-business owners. While fraught with delay and error, the program has successfully transferred much-needed income to vulnerable populations, so much so that there is now a call to make it permanent, as a form of Universal Basic Income.