BRASILIA – With support from the opposition, the Chamber of Deputies approved the provisional measure (MP) that ends the Bolsa Família program and creates the Brazil Aid, the new social program of the Bolsonaro government. The report by deputy Marcelo Aro (PP-MG) was approved by 344 votes in favor and none against. Now, the MP goes to the Senate, where it needs to be approved by December 7th so as not to lose its validity.
Despite protests against the end of Bolsa Família, created by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, opposition leaders sewed an agreement to maintain the determination of zero row for those eligible for the program according to the criteria of extreme and poverty poverty that serve as a beacon for access to Brazil Aid.
Oppositionists justified that in the current moment of increasing hunger in the country, with people eating bone, they could not vote against the aid, but reinforced all the time that they were voting against the MP prepared by the government and in favor of the report by deputy Marcelo Aro which improved the design of the program.
Pressed by the president of the Chamber, Arthur Lira (Progressistas-PP), and by the government, the rapporteur withdrew from the opinion the automatic annual correction of the benefit value linked to inflation.
During the vote, Lira demanded compliance with the agreement with the opposition for the MP’s vote on account of the low quorum. “I wouldn’t be voting with a low quorum if I didn’t have the agreement. This is a fact”, he pointed out. The risk was that the opposition would back down. The PT, Psol and other leftist parties voted in favor of approving the report by deputy Marcelo Aro.
In response to a demand from left-wing parties, the rapporteur withdrew the possibility of payroll-deductible credit for the beneficiaries of Auxílio Brasil, which would allow the reduction of the installments of the benefit to be paid by the government. The payroll was the “apple of the eye” of the Ministry of Citizenship and Caixa Econômica to encourage microcredit and entrepreneurship in 2022, but seen as extremely risky for a population that is already very poor and only has this income.
During the vote in plenary, the opposition tried to sew up the removal of the day-care voucher for families who cannot get places in public day-care centers, a benefit called Child Citizen Aid. But the rapporteur ended up not suppressing the day-care voucher, but made adjustments to the text. The opposition claimed that the crèche voucher was an attempt to “voucherize” education, a constitutional duty of the state.
Aro argued that while the municipalities were unable to meet the demand, it was necessary to ensure the expansion of access to early childhood education.
For the opposition leader, deputy Alessandro Molon (PSB-RJ), the Bolsonaro government MP was very bad. “It came without a body. A carcass came,” he said, noting that Bolsonaro created the “Bolsa Zero” for the more than 20 million families who were left without income with the end of emergency aid and the beginning of Brazil Aid. According to Molon, with dialogue, the rapporteur improved the text, but it still falls short of the country’s needs.
Among the advances, the leader of the opposition listed the establishment of permanent criteria in the text of the law for accessing the benefit and not just in a regulation defined by the Executive.
“The government will not be able to change the criteria. The law establishes who is entitled to the aid and will not depend on the budget”, argued Molon, considering that this mechanism reverses where it exists today. He took the opportunity to nudge Bolsonaro when he said that the president makes barbecues with very expensive meat and that he doesn’t know what the people are going through in the bone line.
Opposition deputies dominated the speeches. The PT’s national president, Deputy Gleisi Hoffmann (PR), said that the aid is voters and recalled that the president called the beneficiaries “vagabonds”. She defended that the value of the Aid increase from R$ 400 to R$ 600 and take care of the transition of the 25 million that were left without the benefit.
To include more families in the program, the report expanded the criteria for per capita (per person) access to the program. The values had been defined in a government decree, but the rapporteur decided to raise the reference values in the report. The extreme poverty line will rise from R$100 to R$105 and the poverty line from R$200 to R$210.
Marcelo Aro separated the three benefits of the anti-poverty nucleus from the five that he calls “social transformation” and the program’s exit point, such as sports assistance and scientific initiation (for families who have good academic and games performance) , the citizen child (nursery voucher), rural production and urban production assistance (for those who get a job).
This division is also an attempt to contain the critics of experts who dubbed the numerous benefits of the “Christmas tree”, such as the risk of taking away the focus and resources that it needs most and is hungry.
By clarifying the separation between the transfer of income to the poorest, equivalent to Bolsa Família, and other new aids, the rapporteur prevents the budget for this basic transfer from being consumed by other aids, which have not yet been tested. According to him, it will be an option for the government to prioritize year after year which programs it thinks it should promote more.
Another important change is the removal of the limitation of five beneficiaries per family. The rapporteur included the nursing mother (a woman who breastfeeds) in the family composition. In the original text she was out to receive the benefit. It also included the option for the beneficiary to withdraw from lottery outlets and not just Caixa branches.
It also tightened the requirements for day care vouchers, which will be paid to mothers who are unable to enroll their child in a public day care center. The report places numerous requirements for day care centers to qualify.
What are the benefits of Auxílio Brasil?
The program has three main benefits:
- Early Childhood Benefit (up to R$130): includes families with children between zero and 36 months of age;
- Family Membership Benefit (BRL 65): unlike the current Bolsa Família structure, which limits the benefit to young people up to 17 years old, it will be targeted at people between 3 and 21 years old. The aim is to encourage this group to remain in their studies to complete at least one level of formal schooling;
- Overcoming Extreme Poverty Benefit: if, after receiving the previous benefits, the monthly per capita income of the family does not exceed the extreme poverty line (R$ 100 per person), it will be entitled to financial support without limitations related to the number of members of the family nucleus.
They are also part of Auxílio Brasil
- School Sports Allowance: intended for students aged between 12 and 17 years old who are members of beneficiary families of Auxílio Brasil and who stand out in official competitions of the Brazilian school games system (up to R$1,000 in a single installment per family or BRL 100 monthly);
- Junior Scientific Initiation Scholarship: for students with good performance in academic and scientific competitions and who are beneficiaries of Auxílio Brasil. The transfer of the amount will be made in 12 monthly installments of R$100 (up to R$1 thousand in a single installment per family or R$100 monthly). There is no maximum number of beneficiaries;
- Child Citizen Assistance: aimed at the person responsible for a family with a child aged between zero and 48 months who is not able to earn a source of income but who cannot find a place in public or private day care centers in the partner network. The amount will be paid until the child reaches 48 months of life, and the limit per family unit will still be regulated (R$200 for part-time children and up to R$300 for full-time children);
- Rural Productive Inclusion Aid: paid for up to 36 months to family farmers registered in the Cadastro Único (R$200);
- Urban Productive Inclusion Aid: whoever is on the Auxílio Brasil payroll and proves a formal employment relationship will receive the benefit (up to R$200);
- Transition Compensatory Benefit: for families who were on the Bolsa Família payroll and lost part of the amount received as a result of qualifying for the Auxílio Brasil. It will be granted during the period of implementation of the new program and maintained until there is an increase in the amount received by the family or until it no longer meets the eligibility criteria.