Families ask for permanent increase for Auxílio Brasil
For beneficiaries, PEC is electoral and R$ 600 will be insufficient due to high inflation
Alaíde de Jesus Santana, 68, lives in Itaim Paulista, on the east side of São Paulo, and no longer attends the neighborhood fairs. The money she receives from her retirement and the Auxílio Brasil of R$400 are insufficient to buy vegetables for her family with the same regularity as before.
“If I tell you that this year I went to the fair, I’m lying”, says the retired woman. She has been following with suspicion the news about the PEC (Proposal for a Constitutional Amendment) approved and promulgated by Congress that authorizes the government to increase the value of Auxílio Brasil from R$400 to R$600 by the end of this year.
For Alaíde, the increase, although important, will not make much difference to the family. “It’s the same potential [de compra]the same thing”, he says.
Unemployed, in debt and living on odd jobs, beneficiaries of Auxílio Brasil who live on the outskirts of the capital of São Paulo agree with Ms. Alaíde’s opinion and demand more effective and permanent measures to reduce the poverty scenario.
Sharing the house with six other people, including daughter, grandchildren and great-grandson, Alaíde sees the approval of the PEC as an electoral measure and says that it is necessary to reduce the price of food so that a real change in the quality of life of families is possible.
“We know that this is just for the guy [o presidente Jair Bolsonaro (PL)] to win [as eleições]”, he says.
In Vila São José, in Grajaú, south of the capital, Danilo Jesus Souza, 36, also receives Auxílio Brasil and criticizes the temporary nature of the increase. “It might even help, but then, when it’s over, where are you going?”
The project foresees that the R$ 600 will be paid only until December of this year. During the House vote, the opposition tried to make the increase permanent, but was unsuccessful. The government wants to bring forward the payment schedule for the Auxílio Brasil of R$ 600 to the first half of August and start transferring the other social benefits provided for in the PEC on the 9th.
Unemployed for two years, Danilo says he has been in debt to pay basic bills, such as water and electricity, and says he needs a stable income to get out of his current situation. “What we really wanted was a steady job,” he says. He also sees the measure as “vote buying”. “For me he [o presidente] wants to buy my vote”, he says.
For Eduardo Santos, 26, who lives in Jardim Miriam, another neighborhood in Grajaú, increasing aid to R$600 by December will not be enough to resolve the family’s debts. “It will be practically the same, because those who pay rent and shop at home already spend more than R$ 1,000”, he reports.
Since he and his wife became unemployed, the two have been accumulating credit card debt and falling behind on rent payments. He fears returning to R$400 next year. “In January, what if the person is still unemployed?”
The rise in prices is a cause for concern for Cleiceane Alves Dias, 38, who lives in Favela Capadócia, Brasilândia, in the north of the capital, and is unemployed. “It would be better if I stayed longer, because the way things are getting bigger with each passing day, [vai fazer falta]”, it says.
She is confused about the start of the new payments. “Actually, I’ve been listening to this for about three months. Every month they say they’re going to increase and it doesn’t”, she comments. While the additional R$ 200 doesn’t come into the account, Cleiceane has been making pot cakes to help with the house’s income.
Also unemployed and unable to pay the rent, Edgar Marques do Nascimento Filho, 36, has been at the Arsenal da Esperança Shelter Center in Mooca, east side, for a few months. There, he has already heard people say that they will vote for the current president because of the increase in the benefit. “I’m still not going to change my vote,” he says.
“There are people saying that they will vote for Bolsonaro because of the increase in aid, that’s what I hear most. And it’s a way to manipulate [os votos]. It’s giving money to the people to be able to eat minimally and those who don’t understand and don’t follow are bought for R$ 100 or R$ 200”, he evaluates.
With the R$400 currently paid, Edgar uses the money “to have a minimally healthy diet”, but that’s all. The lack of income has distanced him from his family and he says he has not been able to see his son, who moved with his mother to Praia Grande, on the coast of São Paulo.
Electoral legislation in Brazil prohibits governments from increasing the value of social programs and creating new benefits in the election year, except in cases of public calamity and a state of emergency. The PEC circumvents the legislation by putting the country in a state of emergency.
For the social worker and director of the Brazilian Basic Income Network, Paola Carvalho, the choice to declare an emergency is now directly related to the electoral calendar and not to the needs of the population.
“We warned since March 2020 that we were experiencing an emergency situation”, he says. The specialist also says that the payment for five months, between August and December, will not have lasting effects on the most vulnerable population.
“It’s five months of R$ 600, knowing that the waiting list for Auxílio Brasil is gigantic and that, effectively, we are not serving all families, not even for the time necessary for people to reorganize”, he says.
A survey carried out by the CNM (National Confederation of Municipalities) and released in June this year showed that 2.7 million families were on the waiting list to receive Auxílio Brasil in April. The government, which promises to include more families in the program, already recognizes that the queue should not be at zero for a long time, as the resources to be released are calculated to meet the families that will already be waiting for the program – and new requests will continue to be presented by the end of the year. In addition, the queue line, with people seeking to register to obtain the benefit, has also been growing.
The social worker says that even with the increase in aid, there is still a deficit in the possibility of consumption and maintenance of basic accounts in these homes.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the income policy that we had was not enough to meet the needs of workers who were unassisted at that time and, therefore, it was important for us to have an emergency policy”, he explains. “The government did not carry out a migration from emergency to permanent in a correct way, making it possible to meet all the people who were in the criteria of poverty and need.”