Brazil bolsters income scheme for poorest amid Covid-19

2 Nov 20

An additional three million people are to benefit from Brazil’s basic income scheme after the World Bank approved $1bn to expand the programme to better support people affected by the pandemic.

The Bolsa Família, a cash transfer programme for poor families with certain conditions attached, such as that the children must attend school and have regular health check-ups, is seen as an important tool to preserve human capital and mitigate the harm caused by poverty.

Between 2012 and March this year, the programme’s coverage remained steady at around 14 million families, but since poverty began to rise sharply following the 2017 recession, a waiting list has developed - while the pandemic is likely to worsen the situation further, with many losing their jobs.

“The uncertainty over the Covid-19 pandemic trajectory and the poverty outlook makes it crucial to expand the Bolsa Família programme and protect the poor in these hard times,” said Paloma Anós, director for the World Bank in Brazil.

“The conditional cash transfer is also critical during the recovery phase, as it encourages families to access health services and ensure that children return to schools, once these services resume.”

She said the Bolsa Família programme is “key to prevent depletion of human capital” by ensuring children attend school, driving social and economic development in the long term.

Brazilian citizenship minister Onyx Lorenzoni said the government “implemented a strong policy response” to Covid-19 to protect vulnerable groups, including emergency cash transfers to informal workers totalling almost $60bn and reaching nearly 70 million people.

“As an additional measure to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, the government decided to expand the Bolsa Família programme, adding 1.2 million new families,” she said.

“Therefore, this partnership with the World Bank will allow us to include families that have become temporarily poor or that hadn’t been able to join the programme before.”

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